Every Friday, the Oceanography and sea ice group at the Norwegian Polar Institute – the group I am part of here in Norway – writes a social media post about polar science for educational outreach. These posts are publicly available in Instagram (click here), Twitter (click here) and Facebook (click here), and I wrote the one for this week about webcams in the North Pole. These webcams have been designed and installed at the Pole by the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington (my home lab and institution in Seattle). The goal of these webcams is to record images of the snow and sea ice conditions over time, from the moment when they are installed in the spring, and through the fall until the polar night begins – or until the floe where they are first installed breaks off or melts away. The photos above are another example of the images taken by one of the webcams in 2013, which was, like the one in the NPI post, mounted as part of the North Pole Environmental Observatory Program or NPEO – the program that led to the origins of my Masters and PhD work.
The image on the top was taken in June 16 – just about two months after the webcam was installed that year. It shows six sticks buried in the snow/ice that indicate how much snow/ice has melted over time. The sticks are marked with alternating black and white squares, each measuring 10 cm. The image on the bottom, taken in July 29, shows not only more of the sticks (indicating about 40 cm of snow/ice melt), but also melt ponds behind the sticks, which are areas where the snow/ice has melted to liquid water and is sitting on the ice. Melt ponds, characteristics of the summertime on the sea ice, are darker and thus absorb more solar radiation, leading in turn to more sea ice melt.
The webcams drift with the sea ice, and transmit a few images per day via satellite in near-real time. More information about these webcams, and the full archive of their images can be found at the NPEO website here.