University of Oulu

Leidman SZ, Rennermalm ÅK, Broccoli AJ, van As D, van den Broeke MR, Steffen K and Hubbard A (2020) Methods for Predicting the Likelihood of Safe Fieldwork Conditions in Harsh Environments. Front. Earth Sci. 8:260. doi: 10.3389/feart.2020.00260

Methods for predicting the likelihood of safe fieldwork conditions in harsh environments

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Author: Leidman, Sasha Z.1; Rennermalm, Åsa K.1; Broccoli, Anthony J.2;
Organizations: 1Department of Geography, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, United States
2Department of Environmental Sciences, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, New Brunswick, NJ, United States
3Department of Glaciology and Climate, Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland, Copenhagen, Denmark
4Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research Utrecht, Utrecht University, Utrecht, Netherlands
5Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL), Birmensdorf, Switzerland
6Centre for Arctic Gas Hydrate, Environment and Climate, University of Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway
7Kvantum Institute, University of Oulu, Oulu, Finland
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Frontiers Media, 2020
Publish Date: 2021-02-18


Every year, numerous field teams travel to remote field locations on the Greenland ice sheet to carry out polar research, geologic exploration, and other commercial, military, strategic, and recreational activities. In this region, extreme weather can lead to decreased productivity, equipment failure, increased stress, unexpected logistical challenges, and, in the worst cases, a risk of physical injury and loss of life. Here we describe methods for calculating the probability of a “scienceable” day defined as a day when wind, temperature, snowfall, and sunlight conditions are conducive to sustained outdoor activity. Scienceable days have been calculated for six sites on the ice sheet of southern Greenland using meteorological station data between 1996–2016, and compared with indices of large scale atmospheric circulation patterns: the Greenland Blocking Index (GBI) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO). Our findings show that the probability of a scienceable day between 2010 and 2016 in the Greenland Ice Sheet’s accumulation zone was 46 ± 17% in March-May and 86 ± 11% in July-August on average. Decreases in scienceability due to lower temperatures at higher elevations are made up for by weaker katabatic winds, especially in the shoulder seasons. We also find a strong correlation between the probability of a scienceable day and GBI (R = 0.88, p < 0.001) resulting in a significant decrease in April scienceability since 1996. The methodology presented can help inform expedition planning, the setting of realistic field goals and managing expectations, and aid with accurate risk assessment in Greenland and other harsh, remote environments.

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Series: Frontiers in earth science
ISSN: 2296-6463
ISSN-E: 2296-6463
ISSN-L: 2296-6463
Volume: 8
Article number: 260
DOI: 10.3389/feart.2020.00260
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1171 Geosciences
1172 Environmental sciences
Funding: Funding for this research was provided by the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program and the National Science Foundation Grant #1604058. AH kindly acknowledges support from the Research Council of Norway (project 223259) and an Academy of Finland ArcI visiting fellowship to the University of Oulu.
Copyright information: © 2020 Leidman, Rennermalm, Broccoli, van As, van den Broeke, Steffen and Hubbard. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.