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Remote research sites on the ice sheet, isolated villages, coastal tundra, and surrounding areas accessed by aircraft, foot, or traverse make up the majority of the funded research groups in Greenland. Typically launching from a staffed hub, the Battelle ARO Team will provision and train researchers in camping, communication, NSF codes-of-conduct and harassment policy, and safety gear before they depart for their final science location. Constant communication is facilitated by daily check-ins with the Kangerlussuaq office to ensure field parties are up to date on incoming weather, flight plans, and messages from home institutions. Support is customized for each research group’s needs, and Battelle ARO Team provide services could include remote travel, snow machines traverses, fuel caching, subcontracts for air support, and other needed support.

Much of the remote field work in Greenland occurs on the ice sheet.  The Greenland ice sheet is the second largest ice body in the world, after the Antarctic ice sheet. It represents a vast body of ice covering 1,710,000 sq. km (660,000 sq. mi.), roughly 80% of the surface of Greenland.

The weight of the ice has depressed the Earth’s crust in central Greenland, leaving the bedrock surface near sea level over most of the interior. The mountainous periphery of the island helps to confine the ice sheet along the coastal margins, forming a sort of cup in which the ice sits. Large outlet glaciers (restricted channels of ice flowing out of the ice sheet) move through bordering valleys around the periphery of Greenland to calve off into the ocean, producing  numerous icebergs.

The ice sheet consists of layers of compressed snow from more than 100,000 years, representing today’s most valuable record of past climate conditions. Scientists have drilled ice cores up to four kilometers (2.5 mi) deep into the ice sheet to obtain data for historic temperature, ocean volume, precipitation, chemistry and gas composition of the lower atmosphere, volcanic eruptions, solar variability, sea-surface productivity, desert extent, and forest fires.

Person walking through snow storm
Photo by: Pat Smith