Highlands: Winter 2015 Edition

By Laura Graham

Sometimes, in order to get things done, you have to find people that are as crazy as yourself. That is precisely what I have done this winter in order to accomplish some of my fieldwork tasks!

Dave, Christina, Lynsay, Nea and I ventured up to North Mountain, Cape Breton in early February. The first challenge upon our arrival – find a place to park the truck. Typically in the wintertime, there is a small area to park in front of the emergency shelter near my field site. However, due to the recent large snowfall, there was no place to put the truck, and we put the shovels to use right away as we were required to shovel a spot out ourselves!

After strapping on our snowshoes and traipsing past the Environment Canada weather station, we found what we were looking for – little metal towers with 12V car batteries, solar panels, dataloggers, and various scientific instrumentation (anemometer, snow depth sensor, etc). Our goals for this trip included getting the Eddy Covariance tower running (as in powered, not running a half marathon) and installing the mystical “profiler system” (okay, not so mystical).

The mystical profiler system is actually a series of cylinders and tubes running to an enclosure on each of the metal towers that contains a pump and two “GPs”. A GP is a sensor that continuously takes CO2 concentration measurements. The cylinders and tubes are installed at various heights within the soil and snow profile, allowing the recording of a suite of CO2 concentrations. For this particular trip, we needed to install the sampling cylinders and tubing. With over 1 m of snow to dig through and a pre-wind chill temperature of -18°C, installation proved challenging. However, with Team Trooper, we certainly succeeded! Big props to Lynsay and Nea for their supreme snow-pit digging skills. With the profiler systems installed, I hope to be able to understand how wind affects CO2 transport through snowpacks.

Another trip up to the Highlands in the near future is necessary to ensure that the profiler system is working, the snow hasn’t buried the solar panels, and all is humming along happily. Pending road conditions, that trip will hopefully be this week!

For more information about my research, check out my Research Profile: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=icSJ2h30Tkc&feature=youtu.be

Stay warm!