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Argos DCS System Use Agreement of the Month
– October 2016

Land Ice and Sea Level Change
Utrecht University – Institute for Marine and Atmospheric Research


In the framework of several international & national projects about 18 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) are erected on glaciers & ice sheets around the world.

On Antarctica ten AWS were placed in 1998 as part of the EPICA drilling project in collaboration with the Swedish, Finnish, Norwegian and German Antarctic Programmes. These stations were complemented with two AWS placed in 2008 along the Norwegian-American IPY traverse on the high plateau of East Antarctica, four AWS placed in 2009/2011 on the Larsen C ice shelf as part of a British-American-Netherlands cooperation, & one AWS placed near the Belgian Princess Elisabeth Station as part of a Belgian-Netherlands cooperation. About 6 of these stations are still operational. On Greenland three AWS are operated on a transect on the western margin of the ice sheet as part of a continuous mass balance monitoring project started in 1990.

In addition to the stations on the large ice sheets several AWS are placed on Alpine & Arctic glaciers in the framework of an ongoing glacier mass balance monitoring programme. For both glaciers & ice sheets ice dynamics play an important role in ice volume changes as well. In order to study the relation between glacier velocity & changes in mass balance ice velocity is monitored using an automatic velocity monitoring system in addition to the AWS & mass balance observations.

About 20 of these systems are places on three glaciers on Svalbard as part of the IPY GLACIODYN project, about 10 are placed on outlet glaciers of the Greenland ice sheet & two are placed on the Larsen C ice shelf, Antarctica. About 10 of these stations are still operational.

The goal of the AWS & velocity monitoring stations is to improve our knowledge about the climatological & ice dynamical conditions at these sites in order to obtain a better understanding of the relation between surface energy & mass balance, and glacier dynamics.

A better understanding of this relation will aid in improving our estimated of the contribution of melting glaciers & ice sheets to sea level rise.

An AWS consists of a vertical mast with a horizontal bar placed at approximately 3m height. The stations measure air temperature, wind speed, wind direction, instrument height, air pressure, short wave incoming & reflected radiation, and long wave incoming & emitted radiation.

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