1. Snow analysis: projects ‘Dark Snow’ and ‘Ice2Ice’


The WindSled develops scientific tasks for the Dark Snow Project on the Ice River Expedition 2017, in which the American glaciologist Jason Box, University of Copenhagen, participates in as scientific advisory to the WindSled. The project belongs to the Geological Institute of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), in collaboration with the University of Curtis (Australia). Dark Snow needs data on changes in the interior of Greenland to understand the impact of the thaw, which is accelerated by the increase of the so-called ‘black snow’, snow contaminated by the soot particles that emanate from fires thousands of miles away and that reduce its reflectivity. During the expedition the project will be coordinated by the Australian scientist Ross Edwards, University of Curtis. At the university the project is named as: “Nano-particles in the atmosphere of the past: feedback on climate change.”

These are 17 drillings up to 15 meters (49 ft) deep that will provide knowledge on the snow accumulated in recent years in the interior of Greenland and its characteristics. Some of its properties will be analyzed on the field (density, temperature, etc.), around 200 kg (440 lbs) of samples will be collected for the subsequent study of the particles they contain, with the support of the scientific base EastGRIP.


The WindSled will collect data for the Norwegian-Danish ICE2ICE project, specifically for the team of Danish scientists Paul Vallelonga and Hans Christian Steen-Larsen, who study the possible role of Arctic ice in a situation of abrupt climate change, analyzing events of the past and information on current changes. ICE2ICE is a project funded by the European Research Council’s on the impact of the disappearance of ice on the planet and is being developed by the University of Bergen (Norway), at the Bjerknes Center for Climate Research (BCCR of Norway), the University of Copenhagen) and the Danish Meteorological Institute (DMI).

In total, the WindSled crew will collect samples of snow in tubes of two meters (7 ft) in 17 holes at a depth of 15 meters (49 ft). Five of the drillings will be performed every 200 kilometers (124 mi) from the start at Kangerlussuaq until arrival to the ice stream (1,000 km- 621 mi). Another 12 will be made later in route about 250 kilometers (155 mi) above the ice stream, in this case every 20 km (12 mi).

It should be recalled that at present there is very little data on the actual snowfall in the interior of Greenland and therefore on the mass balance affecting ice discharges and the level of the oceans. Much of this discharge comes from the great ice current on which EastGRIP is located and will be covered by the polar eco-vehicle of Ramón Larramendi. The collection of data and samples along 1,200 kilometers (745,6 mi), facilitated by the WindSled, is a pioneering activity, with zero emissions, and which will increase the knowledge of the real situation.

  1. Measurements with GPR (ground penetrating radar) for Ice2Ice and Dark Snow

The WindSled takes on board the expedition ICE RIVER 2017 a GPR specially prepared by the team of Francisco Navarro and Javier Lapizarán, Polytechnic University of Madrid, with which the snow thickness under the surface of Greenland will be measured. It has been adapted to operate with a 12 volt continuous power supply through solar energy.

This is the first time a GPR of this type collects data along 1,200 km (745 mi) of the Arctic, which is the route to be carried out by the Ice River 2017 Expedition. In Greenland, GPRs like this have been used before, but over shorter distances than those covered by the polar eco-vehicle in 2017.

The crew of the WindSled, thanks to this device, will be working at a frequency of 750 MHz, obtaining data from 25 meters (82 ft) below the surface of the ice. It is a similar instrument to that used by the team of glaciologists led by Navarro and Lapazarán in Antarctica, within the projectMass discharge of glaciers to the ocean: improvement of current estimates and prediction of future contributions in a changing climate.” This information is complementary to the one provided by drilling and improves knowledge on the mass balance of Arctic glaciers within the same Jason Box Project.

  1. Detection of microorganisms in polar zones

The WindSled carries on board a polar air collector similar to the one already taken in the 2016 expedition, although it has undergone technical improvements so that the collection of data is more effective. It has been developed at the Autonomous University of Madrid by Antonio Quesada’s team.

Its objective is to establish the dispersion and colonization capacity of microorganisms in polar areas, where climate change is leading to deglaciation processes that favor the appearance of surfaces that have been covered with ice for thousands of years. There are, therefore, areas susceptible to be colonized and to develop new biological communities. It is a project belonging to the Autonomous University of Madrid, under the direction of the biologist Antonio Quesada. The expedition is one of four that are part of the only worldwide scientific project that studies this phenomenon. He recently completed the Circumnavigation of Antarctica by sea.

On this occasion, the Quesada team has designed a new device capable of operating by energy generated from movement. Given the high energy consumption of current collectors, it would be incompatible with a zero emissions polar expedition. The air manifold will be in operation 24 hours and will require filter changes for the collection of different particles. Their results will help to know how microscopic living beings move at a global level, even beyond the polar zones, fundamental knowledge of life on the planet and health-wise.

  1. Impact of polar crossings on the human body

The expeditionary of the WindSled will be the object of the “Descriptive study of the relation of the vital constants of an expeditionary in glacial routes with the climatic conditions of the expedition” by the specialist polar doctor Daniel Pérez del Castillo, physician in Antarctic expeditions and an active member of an emergency unit.

The scarce work done on the members of polar expeditions during the XX and XXI centuries is remarkable. This study tries to acquire knowledge in real time relating the interactions of vital human constants with graphs of temperature, humidity and wind speed  during the expedition. Likewise, it will be possible to determine the minimum comfort temperature between the first layer of clothing and the other layers of protection to avoid hypothermia.

To this end, the constant monitoring of the heart rate will be performed by means of a pulsometer; The body temperature and the temperature between the first layer of clothing and the other layers will be measured; Capillary glycaemia and blood pressure during the crossing will also be measured once a week. The WindSled carries all necessary medical equipment on board.

  1. On-line meteorological predictions

A team of meteorological predictors from the Meteorological State Agency (AEMet) will collaborate with the 2017 Ice River expedition giving daily support through predictions based on numerical models and graphic output that has been adapted to expedition necessities with a ‘geographic window’ of Greenland. These models, which are used by the same team in the Antarctic Prediction Group, will allow the expeditionary to have weather forecasts available for several days along the Ice River 2017 route, especially the parameters related to wind, precipitation and visibility, which are fundamental for the optimization of the movements of the expedition.

The prediction (weather forecast) team is made up of Javier Sanz, Sergi González and Francisco Vasallo, who will take turns covering all expedition days. The meteorological data collected by the expeditionary may be useful for further investigation, given the lack of information and data in the Greenland area.

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