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FINNMARK - Part 2/2

Updated: Nov 11, 2020

Story by Erla Auddunsdottir / Video by Sasha Azanova

Report from Finnmark –

Permafrost field trip with researchers Hanna Lee and Inge Althuizen

Friday 4th of September three art students, Erla Audunsdottir, Unn Devik and Sasha Azanova, two researchers from the Norwegian Research Centre (NORCE), Inge Althuizen and Hanna Lee and MA biology intern at NORCE Els Ribbers, left Bergen heading to Karasjok, in Finnmark, to study the thawing of permafrost.

Sunday 08.09.20

Sunday morning we got up at 06.00. The mood around the breakfast table was a little muffled as everyone started to feel the long days and early mornings.

On our way to the field the sky looked promising and the optimism was on the rise.

We arrived at site around 09.30 and the moment we put our bags down the sky came falling down.

Alexandra Azanova and Unn Devik digging to make a clean soil profile to analyze the soil and specify its composites. In the case of permafrost palsa it usually consists of dead organic material.

Our assignment of the day was to test a citizens protocol which is a standardized, simple measuring protocol for gathering data on key variables related to permafrost thaw in order to improve the modeling of thawing permafrost in earth system models:

The speed and intensity of landscape-scale permafrost thaw are underestimated if we do not account for the linkage of processes across different spatial scales. To correctly estimate the speed and intensity of landscape-scale permafrost thaw it is needed to consider various processes that take place across different spatial scales.

For the protocol the first thing we did was to select the location. The location should be accessible and representative for the site and the landscape.

When the location was chosen, we marked the transect with sticks, photographed it and recorded the GPS location.

Next up we filled out the metadata by identifying the ground surface, wetness of area , water features, the surroundings, vegetation and disturbance. Basically describing the transect and the surroundings in detail.

The protocol clarifies what you have to account for according to seasons and area specificity.

The next mission was to measure thaw dept. This point is critical to identify how much the frozen ground thaws from one time to the next.

To measure thaw dept we used a metal stick to penetrate the soil until we hit permafrost, and measured the thaw dept.

The last and most difficult part: Digging a 1x1m2 hole in the ground to get a soil profile. We used a saw and a shovel to get the profile as clean as possible to estimate the thickness of the profile and the soil texture. And last but not least - put the soil back so it can recover.

Alexandra Azanova checking if the hole is deep enough. We hit permafrost 50cm down, but managed to get a good profile anyway.

The rain was consistent the whole day so after lunch Hanna and Inge decided that we would finnish the necessary measurements to complete the citizens protocol and go home a little earlier. On our way back to the car the sky cleared up and as if to taunt us the sun returned, its rays slowly evaporating the moisture in our clothes.

One important thing to keep in mind when taking measurements is to interfere as little as possible with the natural environment and the natural processes. In the end we puzzled the upper layer of vegetation back into place and by next spring we will not be able to trace where the hole was dug.

Tuesday 08.09.20

Tuesday was our last day in the field. We spent the day buying wood, carrying it to the field and using it to build new boardwalks. As the Permafrost thaws the palsas collapse, resulting in the area becoming more and more wet. Therefore there are never enough boardwalks.

The rest of the day was basically at our own disposal. We did the last recordings and documentation and said our goodbyes to Finnmarksvidda that during our four days in the field had gone from bright yellow to dark orange really showing us the spectacle of the fall.

Unn is recording sound from Eddy Covariance flux tower. The metal pipe in the middle sounded like a flute in the heavy wind.

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Still Photography: Erla Auddunsdottir


Read Part 1/2 of this Story by Unn Devik

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