Franz Josef Land

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Franz Josef Land, Russia

In 1996, a new, exciting deep ice drilling program will commence in the high Russian Arctic, on the summit of Kupol Vyetreniy (Windy Dome) on Graham Bell Island (81oN, 64oE). This ice dome has a very symmetrical shape, maximum ice thickness of about 500-550m, and a peak elevation of about 580m.

The archipelago of Franz Josef Land, on the northern rim of the continental shelf that underlies the Barents Sea, is the northernmost land mass in the Eastern Hemisphere. Here, the climate is influenced greatly by the intrusion of Atlantic-derived cyclonic systems that feed moisture into the region, and as a consequence, Franz Josef Land has unusually mild summers for its latitude. In the polar night (wintertime), however, the conditions become extremely harsh, with average temperatures diving down to -25 to -30oC. This means that Franz Josef Land is at a strategic location for studying changes in sea ice cover in the Arctic, since it lies in the region between the modern-day seasonal maximum (February) and minimum (September) sea ice cover. Satellite measurements of sea ice extent are being used in conjunction with stratigraphic profiles of sea-salt aerosols (Cl-, SO42-) from short cores (up to 24m) drilled in 1994 to develop a transfer function that will allow the ice core sea-salt record to be used as a proxy for changing sea ice cover in the surrounding Barents Sea.

Windy Dome is likely to contain a record of local and regional conditions extending back to at least the early Holocene (8,000 to 10,000 years), and it is hoped that glacial stage ice is archived there as well. The 500m+ ice core (to bedrock) will be analyzed over the next few years following this upcoming field season. For this project, scientists from the Institute of Geography at the Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow) will join researchers from the OSU Department of Geological Sciences and Byrd Polar Research Center. Funding is being provided by NASA.

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Last Updated: 8/08/97