Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Volunteer to Survey the Nisqually Glacier!

Nisqually Glacier Survey Project

 The main goal of this project is to identify the glacial flow velocity field of the Nisqually glacier. A major secondary goal is to isolate, to the extent possible, the approximate area of the lower Nisqually glacier that is flowing at a slower rate than the upper glacier. Past research has indicated that the Lower Nisqually typically moved approx. 0.6 m/day. However, measurements by Lead Climbing Ranger Stefan Lofgren during the glacier mass balance-monitoring project indicate that portions of the Lower Nisqually is now hardly moving, in the range of cm/day.

This is important because there is a possibility that stagnant ice (glacial ice that is no longer moving) may facilitate the development of glacial conditions that could allow for the storage of vast amounts of water that can be released catastrophically in the form of outburst floods.

 This year the area set-up by the 2011 glacial studies team will be re-surveyed. The surveying device used will be the Topcon GPT-3105W Total Station used last year. We will identify and survey suitable rocks at the beginning of the project, with as much overlap with last year’s rocks as possible. Ideally, the locations of said rocks will be resurveyed weekly or biweekly in order to ascertain changes in position due to glacial flow. At the end of the survey period, we should be able to utilize the relative motion of the rocks to characterize the velocity field of the glacier. At that point, we should be able to find areas that are not moving, or are moving abnormally slowly and contrast that with areas that are moving rapidly.

Ideally those helping with the survey will have waterproof sturdy boots, sunglasses with full coverage, a climbing helmet, an ice axe and crampons, as well as everything they require for a day trip (lunch, water, extra layers, sunscreen etc). That being said, crampons are unlikely to be required for the first several weeks and even after that if people do not have them, we can put them on a lower-elevation team. An ice axe and climbing helmet are highly recommended. Sturdy boots, sunglasses and sunscreen are not optional!

Volunteers need to be in good shape as they will be hiking all day and helping to carry survey equipment which is not exactly lightweight.

Volunteers are not required to have prior glacier experience, though having it is certainly a plus!

What the project manager needs to know from you if you are interested in participating in glacier surveys is the following information:

1.      When you are available, Thursdays are most often the survey days. 

2.       What is your glacier experience?

3.      Do you have glacier gear  (ice axe, crampons, helmet, climbing harness, stiff crampon-compatible boots, etc)?
If you are interested in volunteering with the glacier survey team this summer, please send the information listed above to Laura Walkup, the Project Manager.

Laura C. Walkup
Geology Technician
National Park Service
Mount Rainier National Park
Longmire, WA 98397

Office: 360-569-2211 ext.7003

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