Late Holocene Arctic climate evolution: Calibrating the lamination stratigraphy in pro-glacial Lake Linne’ Svalbard, Norway

What: Modern climate is changing rapidly in the Arctic.  To better understand future climate, we need to understand how the climate has changed in the past.  Participants in this project will do field work on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard to collect samples and data from a glacier-river-lake system.  We seek to better understand how modern climate influences  glacier melt, sediment transport, and lacustrine sedimentation in order to better calibrate the late Holocene climate record archived in the layered sediments.  In the field we will collect samples and download data loggers on the Linne’ Glacier, in the meltwater stream and in the lake.  In the lab we will process and analyze the samples and data we collect.

When: July 15-August 15

Where: Two weeks on Svalbard and two weeks in the  Lab at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley MA.

Who: 6 students and two faculty (Al Werner (Mount Holyoke College), Steve Roof (Hampshire College) and hopefully Mike Retelle (Bates College)

Project Description and Goals

Cores recovered from Lake Linne’ are well layered and we think, varved.  The laminae vary in thickness and texture from year to year and we hypothesize that changing conditions (eg. glacier mass balance, amount of rainfall, intensity of spring melt etc.)  We are actively monitoring the glacier, the melt water stream and the lake to document which environmental factors cause sediment deposition in the lake.  Our over-arching goal is to calibrate lacustrine sedimentation so that environmental conditions can be interpreted for the late Holocene.

Student Projects

  • Analysis of sediment trap samples (sedimentation rates and sediment textures)
  • Interpretation of the thermal structure of Lake Linne’ for sediment year 2008-2009
  • Interpretation of weather events in the Linne’ Valley as recorded by the automated weather station and air temperature loggers
  • Quantifying the timing and intensity of the snow melt season (using daily photographs, snow depth sensor, and weather data)
  • Quantifying sediment distribution processes in Lake Linne’ (using the 15 logger temperature mooring, and current flow data)

Field Conditions

Svalbard is in the high Arctic and field conditions are often difficult.  Temperatures are typically in the 40s (degrees F), rain is common and polar bear can be encountered at any time.  We carry rifles, we work from boats and our field days are long and hard (rifle and boat safety training will be provided). We hike an hour with heavy packs (one way) to get to the lake and if you will work on the glacier you will hike an additional 4 hours to get to and from the ice.  But, we sleep indoors in comfortable beds, and heated rooms, we have warm meals prepared for us and we have access to flush toilet and showers.

Course Preparation

You should have most of the courses needed to complete a geology major.  Strat./Sed., Geomorphology, Quaternary Geology, Climate Change Geology.