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Through instruments, a look at the lake

Greenland glacier animationLearn how the meltwater lakes on Greenland form and flow.
Video (1:52) watch the video

Our ability to work here is largely defined by the weather. Today, fog and intermittent rain kept us close to camp, where we worked on building two new instrument towers that will remain here after we leave. But when the weather broke for a few hours, we ventured into the still draining (but mostly empty) lake basin to recover two pressure loggers left in the lake two years ago.

The loggers track the amount of water in the lake by measuring pressure from the weight of the water. More pressure means more weight, and this translates into more water. Using computer software to analyze the pressure measurements, scientists can determine how the height of the lake water changed over time.

In 2006, during their first year of field work, scientists Sarah Das and Ian Joughin rowed a small boat onto the lake and put the loggers into it. Last year, the team couldn't recover the loggers because the lake didn't drain during their visit. Yesterday’s draining meant that the scientists could hike out and pick them up.

Each time scientists bring an instrument back to camp, an anticipatory feeling like Christmas morning prevails, with the scientists downloading (instead of unwrapping) to find out what information is inside. Tomorrow we plan to recover a seismometer on the other side of the lake, which means we will get a visitor; weather permitting, a helicopter pilot will be here to shuttle the instrument and give us a chance to see the newly drained lake from the air.

Read on about our adventure in the slideshow below. Can't see the slideshow? Get the Flash plug in »

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