First look under Thwaites Glacier and Kamb Ice Stream — Georgia Tech University #ActOnClimate

Icefin robot. Credit: Rob Robbins

From Georgia Tech University (Michelle Babcock). Be sure to click through for the photo gallery:

Georgia Tech scientists get first look deep under Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier and Kamb Ice Stream

An international team including scientists from Georgia Tech captured new images and first-of-its-kind data from deep beneath an Antarctic glacier, which will help scientists to better understand the impact of one of Antarctica’s fastest changing regions and its impact on future sea level rise.

Their work will be featured as part of a special report on BBC World News on Tuesday, Jan. 28, in celebration of the 200th anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica.

Stationed in Antarctica for the last two months, the MELT (Melting at Thwaites grounding zone and its control on sea level) team, part of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration, deployed ocean instruments and cored sediments to gather data on one of the most important and hazardous glaciers in Antarctica. The MELT team included Georgia Tech scientists who used an underwater robot named Icefin to navigate the waters beneath Thwaites Glacier and collect data from the grounding zone – the area where the glacier meets the sea.

Dr. Britney Schmidt, lead scientist for Icefin and associate professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, said the new data represented several firsts for her team, as well as for science as a whole.

“We designed Icefin to be able to finally enable access to grounding zones of glaciers, places where observations have been nearly impossible, but where rapid change is taking place,” said Schmidt, a co-investigator on the MELT project. “We’re proud of Icefin, since it represents a new way of looking at glaciers and ice shelves. For really the first time, we can drive miles under the ice to measure and map processes we can’t otherwise reach. We’ve taken the first close-up look at a grounding zone. It’s our ‘walking on the moon’ moment.”

Located in a remote part of Antarctica, where few scientists have ever ventured, the team battled sometimes hostile weather, extreme winds, and temperatures below -22 degrees Fahrenheit to get close enough to the Antarctic coastline for Icefin to reach the grounding zone.

In these trying conditions, the MELT team used hot water to drill through up to 2,300 feet – nearly a half mile – of ice to get to the ocean and the seafloor below. On Jan. 9 and 10, Icefin swam more than a mile from the drill site to the Thwaites grounding zone, to measure, image, and map the glacier’s melting and gather other important data that scientists can use to understand the changing landscape and conditions. Not only did the team put one Icefin robot down the borehole at Thwaites Glacier, but they did it with a second Icefin vehicle in collaboration with Antarctica New Zealand near the grounding zone of Kamb Ice Stream, part of the Ross Ice Shelf.

Thwaites Glacier, which covers an area the size of Florida, is particularly susceptible to climate and ocean changes. Thwaites melting accounts for about 4 percent of global sea level rise, and the amount of ice flowing out of Thwaites and its neighbouring glaciers has nearly doubled in the past 30 years, making it one of Antarctica’s most rapidly changing regions.

Dr. Keith Nicholls, an oceanographer from British Antarctic Survey and UK lead on the MELT team, said Icefin’s exploration of sediment and other conditions in the Thwaites grounding zone will help scientists determine how this region will change in the future and what kind of impact on sea level rise we can expect from these changes. The MELT team also deployed radars and oceanographic sensors, conducted seismic studies and took sediment cores from beneath the glacier, and deployed two moorings through the ice that will record ocean and ice conditions for the coming year to monitor changes at Thwaites.
“We know that warmer ocean waters are eroding many of West Antarctica’s glaciers, but we’re particularly concerned about Thwaites,” he said. “This new data will provide a new perspective of the processes taking place, so we can predict future change with more certainty”

The MELT project is funded by the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC), a collaboration between the U.S.’s National Science Foundation and the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council.

From left, (1) Icefin image of sediment laden ice at the grounding zone of Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica. (2) Icefin view of the grounding zone of Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica, in less than one meter of water. (3) Icefin image of sediments and rock in the ice at the grounding zone of Thwaites Glacier, Antarctica.

“To have the chance to do this at Thwaites Glacier, which is such a critical hinge point in West Antarctica, is a dream come true for me and my team. The data couldn’t be more exciting,” Schmidt said. “And exploring the grounding zones of two different glaciers in the same season is incredible.”

Brittney Schmidt and Andy Muller retrieve Icefin after a test dive.

In addition to the MELT project, Schmidt is the Primary Investigator for the RISE UP (Ross Ice Shelf and Europa Underwater Probe) project, which also had team members from Georgia Tech deployed in Antarctica this season. RISE UP is a NASA-funded project that developed Icefin from a prototype to a full-fledged underwater vehicle and aims to develop technology for future missions to Jupiter’s moon Europa.

Both the MELT and RISE UP teams spent time at McMurdo Station, Antarctica conducting research, before simultaneously deploying to more remote areas. Antarctic logistics for both projects were supported by the National Science Foundation, under the United States Antarctic Program.

RISE UP‘s work at Kamb Ice Stream came as part of a collaboration with two projects supported by Antarctica New Zealand: the NZARI Ross Ice Shelf Programme led by Dr Christina Hulbe of the University of Otago, and the NZ Antarctic Science Platform’s Antarctic Ice Dynamics project, led by Dr Huw Horgan of Victoria University.

RISE UP team members deployed along with the New Zealand hot water drilling and science teams to study the Kamb Ice Stream – a river of ice – on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica. Their goal was to explore and map areas near the grounding zone to better understand its flow and the surrounding environment. Icefin’s work at Kamb Ice Stream will continue next season as part of Dr. Horgan’s project.

“We now have, effectively, a transect of conditions from the front of the Ross Ice Shelf to the grounding line,” sadi Christina Hulbe of the Ross Ice Shelf Programme, which finished its final year of field work in late December. “In addition to Icefin’s work, we’ve installed our third ice-anchored mooring, collected cores for sedimentary and microbiological analysis, we’ve imaged the ice optically and using radar, and made high resolution observations of ocean conditions.”

The RISE UP team completed three dives with Icefin, and team member Ben Hurwitz, a graduate student at Georgia Tech who works on Icefin’s technology, said the season was wildly successful, adding the team was “excited to share what we found in the coming months.”

Notes on the projects:

The International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration:

The MELT Project is lead by Keith Nicholls , an oceanographer with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and Dr. David Holland, an applied mathematician (with a background in fluid dynamics) at New York University, with co-leads Dr. Eric Rignot from the University of California at Irving, Dr. John Paden with George Mason University, Dr. Sridhar Anandakrishnan out of Pennsylvania State University, and Dr. Britney Schmidt at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

RISE UP’s field work at Kamb Ice Stream came as part of two science projects funded by Antarctica New Zealand and the Victoria University of Wellington Science Drilling Office. The other research partners involved on the project are: The University of Otago, Victoria University, University of Canterbury and University of Waikato, NIWA and GNS Science from NZ and the ROSETTA project and Universty of California, Santa Cruz in the US.

#SanJuanRiver Headwaters Project (Dry Gulch Reservoir) update

Dry Gulch Reservoir site. Credit The Pagosa Daily Post

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

A recap of the current agree- ment between the Pagosa Area Water and Sanitation District (PAWSD) and the San Juan Conser- vation District (SJWCD) regarding Running Iron Ranch, San Juan River Headwaters Project (formerly known as Dry Gulch Reservoir) and various leases on the property were topics of discussion by both boards at a joint work session on Jan. 23.

The property is jointly owned by PAWSD and SJWCD, PAWSD Manager Justin Ramsey explained, and there is also an agreement with the Colorado Water Conservation Board (CWCB) that includes terms for both entities to abide by.

There is an ongoing 15-year lease with the Weber family on the property; that lease expires on Jan. 3, 2023, Ramsey added…

The purchase of the property was made via a $9.2 million loan that PAWSD has with the CWCB and a $1 million grant that the SJWCD received.

However, in 2015, the property was appraised for about $4.5 mil- lion, he explained…

Park Ditch included with the prop- erty, specifically 9.1 cubic feet per second (cfs), Ramsey noted…

PAWSD’s loan with the CWCB was restructured in 2016 and, with that restructuring, the loan was broken into two parts, “Loan A” and “Loan B.”

Loan A was described by Ramsey as the “planning period,” which en- compasses 20 years — from Sept. 23, 2016, to 2036 — on how PAWSD and the SJWCD will move forward with a project on the property.

The amount for Loan A is $4.2 million and PAWSD is paying that off with a 1.75 percent interest rate.

After that planning period ends, PAWSD will go into an “optional extended planning period,” or Loan B.

“We can extend it for another 20 years and then we’ll start paying on the remaining $4.5 million, but it’s deferred for 20 years,” Ramsey said, noting the loan would be deferred from 2036 to 2056. “We’re not pay- ing anything on it, so it’s a fairly sweet deal at this point.”

Loan B’s interest rate will be for 3.5 percent, Ramsey added later.

According to PAWSD Director of Business Services Aaron Burns, the current remaining balance for Loan A is $3.35 million.

Since the restructured agree- ment, the annual payment on Loan A is $256,000, Burns noted…

Weber leases

There are four separate par- cels of property that encompass the Running Iron Ranch prop- erty, Ramsey explained, noting that those four parcels have been leased to the Weber family.

One parcel is 68.11 acres, an- other is 5.49 acres, one is 40 acres and the final one is 552.73 acres, according to Ramsey.

Additionally, there is a sand and gravel lease on that property, Ramsey noted.

“When the property was pur- chased, we went into a 15-year lease agreement with the Webers, the regional owners of the ranch. It was four different agreements for a $1 a year,” he said. “I think we got $60 out of this and not just $15.”

The lease agreement is from Jan. 3, 2008, to Jan. 3, 2023, according to Ramsey.

Additionally, the lease agree- ment can be extended via written consent from both the landlord and the tenant, and Ramsey explained that if it is extended the lease should be more for $1 a year.

The lease agreement also states that the Webers kept 18 acres of retained property that PAWSD has to provide access to, Ramsey noted, adding later that a legal access easement to the retained property has been provided.

Other requirements under the lease with the Webers is that PAWSD has to provide irrigation to the retained property, but this expires if the Webers no longer own the property.
Both districts also have to pay all fees associated with the Park Ditch and the Webers get use of the water, Ramsey explained.

“We promised that we won’t interfere with their development of that retained property if they are going to develop something in the future,” Ramsey said. “At this point, I have heard nothing of anything being developed out there.”

One thing the Webers have to do is comply with all applicable laws, including environmental laws, Ramsey noted.

“It’s kind of nice that the state oversees that,” he said. “So, it made me feel much more comfortable that I learned of that.”

If the lease with the Webers ends, the Webers are obligated to restore the premises and take other actions required by applicable min- ing laws and regulations, Ramsey explained.

The Webers must also remove all personal property and improve- ments at the conclusion of the lease, he added later.

According to Ramsey, the Webers are interested in extending the lease.

#Snowpack news: #SanJuan River watershed SWE = 95% of normal

Westwide SNOTEL basin-filled map February 2, 2020 via the NRCS.

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

Hatcher Lake is currently 3 inches from full, or 99.07 percent full. Last week it was 1 inch from full.

Stevens Lake is 27 inches from full, or 91.96 percent full. Last week it was 32 inches from full.

Lake Pagosa went from being 5 inches from full to 2 inches from full this week.

Village Lake remains full, while Lake Forest remains 3 inches from full.

Total diversion flows remain at 4.5 cubic feet per second (cfs), with the West Fork diversion still contribut- ing 3 cfs and the Four Mile diversion remaining at 1.5 cfs.

Snow water equivalency (SWE) is currently at 17.7 inches. Last week it was 16.4 inches.

The SWE median has also in- creased, by 0.6 inches, going from 16.3 inches to 16.9 inches this week.

This week, SWE data is 104.7 percent of median; last week it was 100.6 percent of median.

Precipitation has increased 1.9 inches since last week, going from 16.6 inches to 18.5 inches this week.

The precipitation average in- creased as well, going from 18.9 inches to 19.9 inches.

Precipitation data is currently 93 percent of median; last week it was 87.8 percent of median.

From The Pagosa Sun (Chris Mannara):

Even with light snowfall ex-perienced last week, local basins have seen a 7 percent decrease in snowpack totals, according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

The San Miguel, Dolores, Animas and San Juan River basins have a collective snowpack total this week of 108 percent of median. Last week, that total was 115 percent of median.

This week, the Upper San Juan site is 95 percent of median. Last week, it was 104 percent of median.

The Wolf Creek summit dropped 4 percent from last week, going from 96 percent of median to 92 percent of median this week.

The National Weather Service’s local forecast for Pagosa Springs does not list a chance of snow through Sunday. Wolf Creek Pass has the same forecast.

At the Upper Rio Grande Basin, a 6 percent decrease was reported as totals fell from 115 percent of median to 109 percent of median this week.

The Arkansas River Basin saw a slight decrease from last week, go- ing from 113 percent of median to 112 percent of median this week.

Snowpack totals have remained at 114 percent of median at the Yampa and White River basins.

A 2 percent decrease was re- ported at the Laramie and North Platte River basins as snowpack totals dropped from 108 percent of median to 106 percent of median.

Last week, the South Platte River Basin was 114 percent of median. This week, it is 111 percent of me- dian.

The Upper Colorado River Ba- sin’s snowpack totals have stayed at 109 percent of median since last week.

A 3 percent decrease was re- corded at the Gunnison River Basin as snowpack totals went from 108 percent last week to 105 percent of median this week.

#Palisade studying sewer options, upgrades #water facility software — The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel

Palisade is just east of Grand Junction and lies in a fertile valley between the Colorado River and Mt. Garfield which is the formation in the picture. They’ve grown wonderful peaches here for many years and have recently added grape vineyards such as the one in the picture. By inkknife_2000 (7.5 million views +) –, CC BY-SA 2.0,

From The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel (Dan West):

The Town of Palisade is moving forward with a study exploring solutions to either replace its aging sewer plant with a new facility or pump the waste to the Clifton Sanitation District, Town Administrator Janet Hawkinson said.

The town’s current plant uses lagoons and is situated on the east side of Riverbend Park. Those lagoons must be decommissioned, Hawkinson said.

The town, utilizing grant money awarded by the Department of Local Affairs, tasked an engineering firm to study the amount of waste the town produces, the cost to install a new plant and the cost to send the waste to Clifton…

The cost of a new Palisade sewer plant would likely be much more expensive than sending the waste to Clifton, Hawkinson said.

The study will be completed in approximately six weeks, Hawkinson said, at which point the Board of Trustees will need to weigh in on the next steps in the process.

Water treatment upgrades

Not to be confused with its sewer plant, Palisade’s water treatment plant is getting an upgrade after the Board of Trustees voted to spend nearly $40,000 to upgrade its computer systems.

Hawkinson said the water treatment plant is a newer facility, which uses advanced safety features as well as solar power in its design. Since the facility is newer much of it is computerized, Hawkinson said, and needed updates to its software.

Greg Felt appointed to #Colorado #Water #Conservation Board — The Ark Valley Voice @CWCB_DNR

From The Ark Valley Voice (Jan Wondra):

Greg Felt via his Facebook page February 2020.

Chaffee County Commissioner Greg Felt has been appointed by Governor Jared Polis to serve on the Colorado Water Conservation Board; a three year term of office effective February 12, 2020 to February 12, 2023. According to Felt, the appointment represents a shift from what has traditionally been a Front Range focus.

“The Front range gets more attention than we do. But what has been happening is a recognition and an understanding that these upper basins of our major river systems of the state are where the big, forested watersheds are,” said Felt earlier this week. “A lot of those are like ours – not in the best of health and at risk for wildfire. We need to focus more attention on those challenges, as we’ve done through the Envision process here.”

Felt’s viewpoint; that our water infrastructure is dependent upon a healthy forest. “The forest is our greatest reservoir [of water] of all and if we don’t give it some attention, all the dams, and pipelines and ditches aren’t going to be nearly as effective. Watershed health is becoming a big part of the picture.”

While he sees progress ahead, Felt says there are challenges. “How do we achieve those greater goods, without compromising the property? There are trade-offs – what are we willing to do to protect what we value? It will take some creative thinking – getting folks involved who aren’t purely part of the institutions of water management.”

Felt, who still faces Colorado Senate confirmation, says that the role he is taking on is only possible because of the great mentorship he has received over the past several years. “I think I been fortunate to have some great mentors in this field. People like Terry Skanga, Ken Baker and Jim Broderick down at Southeastern [Colorado Water Conservancy] – Alan Hamel of Pueblo board of Waterworks – without their help and guidance I don’t think I’d be at the point where I’m ready to try this. It takes a long time to learn this stuff, and it’s important that we keep passing on the knowledge.”


Three appointments were made to the CWCB. Felt is unaffiliated. Also reappointed to the CWCB were Celene Nicole Hawkins of Durango, Colorado, a resident of the San Miguel-Dolores-San Juan drainage basin and a Democrat, and Heather Renae Dutton, a Republican of Del Norte, Colorado, representing the Rio Grande drainage basin.