Expedition Blogs

Lena River Delta - Summer2016


Hello everyone,

our small group of scientist arrived on Samoylov five days ago. The trip to Samoylov by speedboat was fast, but also quite bumpy due to high waves. Shortly after our arrival, we went to our instruments for a short check. The next day we started our work.

Jean-Louis Bonne (AWI Bremerhaven) is working on his measurement for water vapor isotope composition. Unfortunately some parts inside a pump broke apart, so Jean-Louis is improvising and turning marker-caps and syringes into pump parts.

Lutz Beckebanze (Uni Hamburg) is taking care of the Eddy-Covariance-System which measures the vertical fluxes of carbon dioxide, methane, water and heat. The system is working quite well so he is doing some maintenance work.

The weather could not be better for us. Before our arrival it was freezing for one night so there are nearly no mosquitoes alive. Now we have 15 degrees and sun for the last three days. The last two nights were clear so we could also see beautiful polar lights.

Best regards,

Jean-Louis and Lutz

Here we are! © J.-L. Bonne

Lena River Delta - Summer2015


Hello everybody,
It’s been two weeks since we arrived on the beautiful island of Samoylov. Time is going very fast and we can’t believe that most of the group is leaving in a few days.

After a smooth but exhausting flight and boat-trip we made it to Samoylov in 34 hours. Soon after arrival everyone got started on their tasks. At the moment, six CarboPerm scientists are working in the delta. Jannik (a masters student from Cologne) is collecting soil and surface water for organic matter compound analysis and radiocarbon measurements. Janina (PhD student from GFZ Potsdam) is starting a long term experiment on microbial induced methane production and soil geochemistry in the active layer on old organic matter. Gillian, Christian and Lutz are doing measurements of greenhouse gas fluxes. Gillian is doing this on a small scale using chamber-measurements while Christian and Lutz are trying their best to keep the Eddy-Covariance-System up and running. Nana travelled to the island of Bykovsky shortly after our arrival to collect soil samples. She will be camping with other colleagues on the island until the end of the expedition.
The weather over the last two weeks has been unstable as usual. We had some warm days at the start, but since then we’ve been lucky to have some cooler temperatures and strong winds meaning mosquito-free weather! Now it feels like the middle of autumn and the tundra is starting to change its colours to red and brown. Last weekend we had our first storm with wind speeds up to 75 km/h. Luckily, no one got blown off the beach during our hiking trip!

Last night, Christian saw the first northern lights. Unfortunately, for the rest of us they had gone by the time Christian woke us up. We hope to have clear skies again soon to see this amazing spectacle of nature.

Sunny regards,
Gillian, Janina, Jannik, Christian and Lutz

Gillian, Janina, Jannik, Christian and Lutz. © XX


Hello Everybody,
Greetings from Samoylov! After a rather short trip via Hamburg – Berlin – Moscow – Yakutsk – Tiksi we finally arrived on this beautiful Island in the Lena Delta. With only 48 hours of travelling our trip was rather short; only 25 hours longer than the record time. The new research station provides us with the best working conditions. We all have a ‘comfortable’ bed to sleep in, two hot meals a day and a warm shower. Due to the delayed arrival of the scientific cargo, we spent the first days with an excursion around the Island, preparing first experiments, and setting up the labs. After the cargo arrived on the Island everyone got busy with their different projects. This July, five CarboPerm scientists are working here. Colleagues from the University Hamburg, i.e. Lars, Tim, and Josefine, are dealing with land-atmosphere carbon fluxes across different scales while Olga and Alexander from the University of St. Petersburg deal with the carbon dynamics in the Lena River and the nearby lakes. Despite small technical problems work is progressing well so far.
Weather conditions are best described as unstable. A few days ago we were expecting the summer with two sunny and warm days in a row but they were followed by cold wind and lots of rain. On nice days Mosquitos are coming around in big black humming clouds and feast on the blood of unsuspecting scientists. One sunny Sunday we took the opportunity to visit Stolb. From this high rock we had an amazing view over the rather flat Delta. From time to time we also like to relax while playing a round of table tennis or backgammon, and going for a swim in the Lena. Traditionally on Wednesdays and Saturdays, we have Banja, or Russian Sauna, followed by a rationed but well deserved cold beer, or a much appreciated glass of vodka, at the old station. Around the kitchen table in the midnight sun, new ideas are developed, stories from the old times are told, and the guitar is played with the some joining in singing. These short but sweet moments of relaxation renew energy levels for more long days in the field.

All the best!
Josefine and Tim

A track to nowhere? No, it’s our ‘Autobahn’ to the measurement sites. © T. Eckhardt
Humming travel companions – Welcome to Mosquito Bay! © J. Walz
Even in times of GPS the good old compass is still a useful tool. © J. Walz
Also the local wildlife is interested in what we are doing here. © T. Eckhardt

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Lena River Delta - Snowmelt2015


During the recent weeks the prevailing wind direction was northerly and so the weather: cold and grey. Hoping for a soonish change we observed the approaching spring flood on satellite images. As it seems to occur frequently the flood wave got stuck in the mountains south of the Lena Delta; must have been a massive ice jam again damming the river up to a width of approximately 4 km. So the water level started to decline after a couple of days denoted by a slow but steady increase in water table.

Occasionally the Siberian gods visually appeared whilst conjuring magnificent ice structures on the polygons with their crystal breath. © N. Rößger

After the flux tower on the flood plain being taken down and counting the days of the data gap the flood finally showed up. It all started with pushing away the ice remaining from the previous winter and then more and more ice floes floating down the Lena. Everything went very smoothly and peacefully until ice blocks hit each other and massive forces built up. After a few hours of this mesmerizing play, silence came as one or many jams must have occurred in the delta. During all this stop and go in the channels the water rose quickly and by that inundated broad sections of the delta, e.g. the flood plain on Samoylov.

The flood plain on Samoylov during the flood peak. It did not reach the station like last year… © N. Rößger

After a short flood peak the water retreated again but more slowly than it has risen up. In general, this year’s flood did not strike Samoylov hard - a fact I fancy heaps as the flood plain was not flooded for days which allowed a soon set up of the dismantled flux tower. And luckily the flood did not leave any floes behind at the tower spot which spared us the necessity of musing about another position or demolishing one or more massive ice blocks.

Due to the minor magnitude of the spring flood and its short flood peak the old station was situated on its own island for only one and a half days. © N. Rößger

Also, the weather came up with some sun rays we haven’t seen for many weeks. The temperature even achieved two-digit values (°C). Accordingly, the frozen tundra turned into a wet tundra and, thus, the thermo boots times are over; from now on “rubber booty times” shall reign over Samoylov. Now without the soft, shock-absorbing soles, venturing out always makes us aware of how hard permafrost-affected soils are. A feature we also notice during our daily hole and core drilling around the freshly reinstalled flux tower on the flood plain. On account of the belated flood and our soonish departure the next days are packed with field work. But we’ve accomplished a fair bit already including setting up a camera mast and some soil monitoring stations; next steps encompass installing ground water monitoring sites, active layer and leaf area measurements and a footprint survey.

Unlike the central part of the flood plain, the northern part is a maze of marvellous ice floes coming up with various colours, shapes and sizes. © N. Rößger

Since all the ice around the island is gone, Samoylov is an isolated ecosystem again which accommodates a couple of arctic hares as well as at least two arctic foxes. Contrary to last year there are only a few lemmings around. One has its burrow right next to the tower on the flood plain, so we see it on and off. I hope it’s a well-behaved one which is not into nibbling cables. The tundra itself has not started to become green and colourful but one can spot some flowers which will be in bloom soon…

We’re doing okay up here and hope so do yas down south…

Arctic regards,
Norms and Alex

post scriptum: the board walk leading to the flux tower on the river terrace has been extended to a fancy 3-lanes highway (“Autobahn” as the construction staff used to say smilingly) which is pretty great to stroll on…

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Impressions of the Polar day, the spring flood and the ice breakup. © N. Rößger


After a bunch of chaotic flights from Berlin via Moscow and Yakutsk we made it safely to Tiksi where we spent a night and cracked on soon to our all beloved little isle by the name of Samoylov situated in the Lena River Delta. This is now roughly two weeks ago and we’ve been quite busy since then.

Bumpy track across the frozen Neelowa bay. © N. Rößger
The regular maintenance proves convenient due to the large amount of snow. Normally, this work requires a ladder to reach the gas analysers. © N. Rößger

Initially, we checked the two eddy covariance towers and the instruments made it through the previous winter quite well. Unfortunately and in absence of an obvious reason the logger storing the eddy covariance data on the flood plain refused to operate in mid-January which results in a data gap since then till mid-April. However, the winter data logged until January is utilisable. Soon after our arrival we extended the closed-path measurements at the other flux tower on the river terrace by two open-path analysers we had sent off a few months ago. So the flux towers in conjunction with all additional meteorological standard measurements are running reliably and are all set for a new vegetation period. Walking outside, when paying the towers a maintenance visit, is quite funny with the loads of snow we’ve been having - firn and soft parts alternate constantly which make one sink in and step up all the time when we “hit the tundra”. On the flood plain there’s a 40 cm layer of firn and snow drifts on top of that reaching up to 80 cm. The river terrace exhibits less snow; the polygon rims are partly peeking out whereas the centres are entirely buried.

Knowing the flux towers doing their job we started to prepare and test the instruments we need for the monitoring of the area around the flux tower on the flood plain. So we took down three loggers from the weir station and plus the two loggers from the cargo we have set up five loggers being ready to monitor the soil moisture and soil temperatures at various depths. For the installation of these probes as well as sensors we plan to monitor the ground water table with, we need to drill many holes. Hence, we tested a drill hammer and an earth auger which came off splendidly. For the monitoring of the vegetation’s phenology we intend to erect a tower with cameras mounted on. Making sure the tower does not spin around its axis (in order to keep the defined alignment whilst erecting) took a while but it worked out great as well.

The pump-up mast erected to our and Stolb Island’s delight. © N. Rößger

We heard the ice break-up in the Lena at Yakutsk occurred a few days ago and usually it takes about three weeks for all the water to come down here. So, we’re likely to end up with a belated spring flood this year. Anyhow, we are prepared and looking forward to massive ice floes…

Arctic greetings from the gorgeous Lena,

Norms & Alex

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Lena River Delta - Spring2015


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Stephan Schennen, Georg Schwamborn and Sebastian Zubrzycki are packing all need equipement.

They will keep you informed about their adventures. Visit this website regularly!

Bolshoy Lyakhovsky - Summer2014





Liebe Kollegen,

morgen, am 23.07.14, beginnt der Sommerabschnitt der diesjährigen Geländearbeiten auf Bolshoy Lyakhovsky, der südlichsten der Neusibirischen Inseln (ca. 400 km östlich des Lena Deltas gelegen).

Bis zum 23.08.14 sind wir unterwegs per Flugzeug (Moskau, Tiksi) und Helikopter (BL).

Zum wiss. Programm gehören physikalische Messungen und Sedimentprobenahmen zur Datierung der Permafrostformationen mithilfe von optisch stimulierter Lumineszenz, Sedimentprobenahmen zum Studium der Abbaubarkeit von organischer Substanz in modernen und alten Bodenhorizonten, geophysikalische Profilmessungen im Umfeld der Permafrostkerne, die im Frühjahr gebohrt wurden, das Auslesen der Temperaturkette, die in einem der Bohrlöcher instrumentiert ist.

Unsere wissenschaftliche Gruppe besteht aus:

Georg Schwamborn, AWI; Sebastian Wetterich, AWI; Maggi Fuchs, AWI; Jens Tronicke, Univ. Potsdam; Stephan Schennen, Univ. Potsdam; Josefine Walz, Univ. Hamburg.

Techn. Unterstützung erhalten wir von:

Viktor Zykov, Samoylov Station

Lena River Delta - Spring2014


G'day everyone!

After a series of chilly days with heaps of rain and even snow we finally went thru some pleasant days again. Well, it has been just two days and fairly gusty but sunny though! So today I took the opportunity and began to search for one of local top sights worth seeing: the larch. This poor fella must have gotten lost on its journey for an appropriate spot to thrive. Or it's just a tough, lil warrior who didn't care about ending up on the easterly part of Samoylov and it now insists on enriching the artic flora by a wee bit of bonsai culture...All good far up north!

Artic regards,

A larch. © N. Rößger


After the last year's flood being low in extent I, frankly speaking, was hoping for a "significant flood" and I wasn't disappointed. The water kept rising and when we were about to stack up our equipment at the flux tower situated on the central part of the river terrace, I started to regret my "realful thinking". The uncertainty of what was yet coming up gave us a hard time; for instance, somehow cutting the power supply from the garage at the station in order to prevent energising the area around the tower. However, the access to the garage was flooded already. Whilst being highly busy with dewiring, moving boxes and thinking of countermeasures in the event of an ongoing rise in water level, the water stopped going up: the peak was finally reached on 31.05.2014 at 5am. This observation brought quite some relief! No swimming to the garage was necessary anymore. Before heading back to the station, an aerial view from the tower's top revealed the extent of this year's spring flood.

Aerial view from the tower's top to the Southwest. © N. Rößger
Aerial view from the tower's top to the Northwest. © N. Rößger

The following days were denoted by observing this intriguing natural event whilst cracking on with our GPS tracking along the water-land-boundary. This nicely revealed how slowly the water level declines. Despite the low resolution of our map presented here, it also depicts the variable elevation profile in the polygonal tundra as we were determined deciding whether each polygon was connected to the Lena or not. Unfortunately we were not able to complete the track in the arvo of the 31rst May (UTC) as the flood was about to inundate the flux tower platform.

Map of Samoylov Island with tracks of the advancing and falling river edge. © B. Runkle & N. Rößger; Base map: © SPARC doi.pangea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.786073
Ice floes left behind by the retracting water. © N. Rößger

After a couple of days the flood plain was broadly walkable allowing getting lost in a mesmerising maze of massive ice floes left behind by the retracting water. Their variety of shapes and colours ranged across a big scale of impressiveness.

Soon the water gave way to the spot where we dismantled the flux tower prior to the flood; it’s was time for the reinstallation! After carrying the entire equipment all the way back to original spot and a long series of unfortunate setbacks the flux tower on the flood plain is operating again. It has been a pleasant work as the after-flood weather consisted of a lovely warm spell. Also, the swooping common snipes as well as the sound of the collapsing floes around rounded off the magnificent setting. Now the flux tower is additionally equipment with a rain gauge, two soil temperature probes, a time-lapse camera and a grounding.

The flux tower on the flood plain. © N. Rößger

29.05.2014 - The flood wave hits Samoylov Island

The flood has come and gone, as you see in the video.  What was it like when it came pouring in?  We had been waiting and waiting, and the moment we noticed that the ice was moving was quite dramatic. Some of us grabbed coats, some of us grabbed sample bottles, many grabbed cameras.  A few said only, eh, my local Russian river floods like this every year and I've seen ice move before.

For those of us running outside we saw massive pieces of ice and snow moving atop the river. The river rose up the cliff banks so quickly!  The pace must have been half a meter in ten minutes or less.  We saw giant blocks of ice ram into the cliff's edges, pushing soil up, colliding with other ice, wedging itself into place.  So much ice moving so quickly!  And then....it stopped.  All the ice rammed into all the other ice...and moved no more.  Within two hours all was calm.  Our island is on a side river channel of the delta, and the main flow to the east and north pushed ice towards us.  When our channel was full - where else could the ice go?

Yet water still rose -- the following day and night, we watched (and continued to map) the water rise up and up and up.   It creeps slowly across the landscape, first moving here and then there as its fingers spread out across any low lying area.  Once a small dam is over-topped, then water can move quickly to fill subsequent low areas.  The pace was generally slow - we watched the water lightly cover, then fully cover the island's floodplain. Surely it must stop soon, right?  It kept rising up the cliff's walls...rising, and rising.  Mid-afternoon, we had to rescue one set of low-lying equipment.  We unplugged cables, pulled out wires, and moved batteries to higher ground. How much more water would there be?  In the late evening we set out to observe.

The water ended up peaking at 5AM, and we were awake to see it -- after watching the water flood our main equipment's platform.  Fortunately we were able to move our big boxes up on top of each other in a stack.  This tough work and long night were worth it -- to see so much of our island underwater! So many familiar sights buried under the spreading river!  So many lake outflows reversing course to become momentary inflows!

by Ben Runkle


We wait for the spring flood of the Lena River.  This big event delivers lots of fresh water and ice into the Laptev Sea and Arctic Ocean. It also delivers dissolved organic matter – small pieces of carbon derived from plant and organic material. Since the water that creates this flood comes from snow that has melted atop the soil surface, it carries organic material from that soil all the way to the river’s northern mouth. Already in a week of measurements, we have seen the concentrations of carbon in the river water more than double and the peak flood is not yet here.
What does this event look like locally? You can see the map of our island. Every day we take a small walk along the coast with our GPS device, tracking the advancing and falling river edge. During our hot spell (+10 °C!) we saw much of our local river ice and snow melt away. This water, and similar waters from upstream, contributed to a rising water table. It is an impressive feeling to recognize that the beach has been drowned! The island is getting smaller!
As you see on the map, much of the left (western) side of the island is a sandy floodplain. In most years this region is completely submerged for some time during and following the peak flood event. To prepare for this possibility, we have had to remove some of our instrumentation from this region so it doesn’t get destroyed by the large pieces of ice and unpredictable flows of water across this zone. Many of us look out the window upon waking up, wondering – did the flood come last night? It’s better to wonder these thoughts when you don’t also have to worry about your science projects being destroyed by that very event.  It has not yet arrived, so in the meantime, we do the work we can on a partially frozen island.

by Ben Runkle

Map of Samoylov Island with tracks of the advancing and falling river edge. © B. Runkle; Base map: © SPARC doi.pangea.de/10.1594/PANGAEA.786073

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Lena River at Samoylov Island. © M. Winterfeld

Hello Permafrost-Friends,

The next expedition group has arrived on Samoylov Island already a week ago. We are a group of 9 people including myself, Maria Winterfeld, and Antje Eulenburg from the Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, Benjamin Runkle from the Institute of Soil Sciences at the Universität Hamburg, Torsten Sachs with the members of his Helmholtz Young Investigators Group “TEAM” (GFZ) with Katrin Kohnert, Eric Larmanou, and Andrei Serafimovich as well as our Russian colleagues Gulnara Nugamatsyamova from the University of Kasan and Alexander Cabrikov from the University of Moscow.

While back home in Germany people are enjoying the warm summer weather, it is the beginning of spring here in the tundra. In the Arctic, springtime is a rather short period accompanied by huge changes in the landscape, the flora and fauna. The snow is gone and has left behind a brown, muddy ground. The ice on the Lena River is almost completely melted in the central part of the delta whereas southern part of the river is still ice-covered. We also saw the first dwarf willows waking up after the long winter and migrating birds starting their mating rituals.

All of us are interested in studying this particular time of the year covering several aspects, e.g. temperature changes, methane and CO2 fluxes, zooplankton communities in partly ice-covered lakes, hydrological changes such as melt water runoff and its dissolved organic carbon concentration as well as the organic carbon composition of the Lena River. But THE springtime event everybody is waiting for right now is the final ice breakup followed by the spring flood flushing down from the south to the Laptev Sea. In some years the water level of the Lena has risen up to 10m higher than normal and large parts of Samoylov Island were then flooded. We have been expecting the spring flood in the delta for a couple of days now, but it seems there is an ice-jam further upstream damming the river. However, Norman and Ben took down the flux tower on the flood plain in order to avoid flushing down instruments worth a few grants down the Lena River.

After a couple of days being sunny and warm (12.6°C!), we are now having subzero degrees again, clouds and strong winds, which make it less pleasant to stay outside for too long.

As soon as the spring flood arrives in the delta, we let you know!

by Maria Winterfeld

Dwarf willow. © M. Winterfeld
Taking down the flux tower. © N. Roessger

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It seems like winter is going down in seasonal history as spring is slowly approaching – with massive implications on our everyday life on Samoylov. The gorgeously white scenery is about to turn into a swamp with slushy snow drifts one keeps suddenly sinking in whilst walking to the flux towers. But the rising temperatures also allow us to put the red playsuit back in the wardrobe and put on a spring dress in the form of an orange jacket with orange daks. Also wildlife is waking up: the zooplankton in the lakes is packed with lipids (as a recent look through a microscope revealed) and a few flocks of geese have already migrated back. For the most part air temperature is still below zero but the surface is gradually heating up and the abundance of snow-free patches quickly increases during fair periods. And not forgetting the approaching spring flood wave being somewhere around Zhigansk at the moment. By the time the flood turns up we will have brought in the flood plain station. The malfunctioning anemometer needs to be swapped by all means since sonic temperatures have occasionally been going through the roof. Also 3 out of 4 solar panels need to be replaced as the front panes are shattered. They are still doing okay but it’s fairly uncertain how they’ll be coping with the upcoming rain. These issues sorted out in conjunction with a bit of maintenance we are prepared to mount the new, fancy tripod being fully equipped after the flood. The instrumental setup of the flux tower on the river terrace is nearly complete after a comprehensive repair of the closed-path analysers. Unfortunately, the LG analyser didn’t make it when the interior temperature in the box exceeded the melting point of plastic prior to the last winter but the LI 7000 is doing its duty. We are thus looking forward to successful measurements this year…

We are doing okay and hope so do you down south…

by Ñorman Rößger

Setting up the closed-path analyser (in the box) at the flux tower on the river terrace. © N. Roessger

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Hi all, here are Christian Wille and Ñorman Rößger from the Institute of Soil Science at the Universität Hamburg.

This is a brief update on our today’s work:  the final setup of the eddy tower instrumentation on the flood plain powered by the excavated solar panels and the occasionally spinning windmill - from now on accompanied by methane recording!

This morning kicked off with the annoyingly catchy song “Moskau” (we kept humming it throughout the day) sung by Russians with Germany lyrics on TV  when we had brekkie.  At that time the weather looked promising but came up with strong wind and a fair bit of snow (horizontal snow flake stream lines) later. However, eventually we had a gorgeous arvo with heaps of sunshine at about -10°C which didn’t appear chilly as the wind had entirely ceased.

Tomorrow’s plan consists of taking care of the main tower…

Due to 1rst May, we had splendid dinner tonight: reindeer and quite a bit of wodka!

by Ñorman Rößger

Reading out data on the floodplain. © N. Roessger
Our solar panel. © N. Roessger

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Bolshoy Lyakhovsky - Spring2014


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First CarboPerm expedition has started!

From 30.03.2014 to 29.04.2014 scientists from Alfred Wegener Institute Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research, the University of Potsdam and the Arctic and Antarctic Research Institute will drill into the deep permafrost on Bolshoy Lyakhovsky island, the southernmost of the New Siberian Islands. Technical support is provided by Melnikov Permafrost Institute.

The scientific goals of this expedition are 1) to collect frozen core samples from the great archive of tundra soils going back into the Eemian for further description, analyses and experiments; 2) to exploit the borehole by installing a temperature monitoring and 3) to get a detailed picture of the permafrost quality around the borehole by geophysical techniques.

There will be a weekly blog from Bolshoy Lyakhovsky. Visit this site regularly

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Cherskii - Spring2014


Methane measurements by Fanny

Before our maintenance visit in April, the eddy-covariance towers at our site were equipped with open-path gas analyzers to monitor carbon dioxide and water vapor fluxes. To improve the understanding of ecosystem-atmosphere exchange fluxes of carbon in arctic permafrost regions, however, we also needed to cover additional carbon species with this experiment. The main motivation for this site visit was therefore the installation of new gas analyzers that also allow measuring the fluxes of CH4.

Tower at the reference site with the newly installed inlet system for the trace gas monitoring system. © M. Hertel

The new trace gas monitoring system, capable of measuring the high-frequency fluctuations in the mixing ratios of methane, carbon dioxide and water vapor, consists of a heated inlet system, a closed-path gas analyzer and an external pump. Since we were well prepared and had started some test runs already in Germany, we were able to fully install and subsequently test the whole system setup at both towers within the given timeframe. With the new setup up and running, we now can produce year-round observations of CH4 fluxes using the eddy-covariance technique. The major objectives are to evaluate the spatiotemporal variability of ecosystem-atmosphere exchange fluxes in arctic permafrost regions as well as the environmental drivers that dominate this variability.

Now that we managed to finish all the scheduled work in Cherskii, the field trip is almost over and we have to leave this wonderful place. Before I say goodbye I want to use this last opportunity to thank my team for the warm and funny atmosphere throughout the trip and the technical as well as scientific support. I hope all the readers enjoyed our blog and hope that you keep following us during the summer field campaigns this year.

Goodbye Fanny

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Stove and pipes to pump water uphill from the Kolyma River to the living houses. © M. Hertel

Accommodation by Fanny

During our April stay in Cherskii the facilities of the Northeast Scientific Station that are used to accommodate visitors in the summer were still closed for winter. We therefore stayed in the private homes of our Russian partners, and could get insights how the normal life in the far north is organized during the polar winter. For us Central Europeans, it usually does not make much of a difference in everyday life if it is winter or summer; in Siberia, on the other hand, even some of the simplest things you would never worry about in Europe can be complicated during the polar winter. One example is running water: in Siberia, it is simply not possible to have water pipes to supply each house with fresh water year round - because of the harsh and long winter with temperatures between -20 and -40 °C, all pipes would freeze up and crack, even with the best insulation. The solution at our station is to have water tanks inside the house to store water under non-freezing conditions. The filled-up tank usually lasts for 1-2 weeks, dependent on the consumption and number of people in the house. To refill the tanks, water from the Kolyma River is used. The total process of drilling into the frozen river, heating the stove to heat the river water and pump it uphill very fast so that the water will not freeze within the pipe, is very complex and takes roughly a whole working day.

Also we were able to experience Russian culture in more detailed way during our stay with the Russian hosts. Since our stay ended shortly before the Eastern holidays, we learned a lot about the Eastern celebration and other holiday traditions. Also we were offered a lot of Siberian and Russian style meals, which were always delicicous. On behalf of the whole team we have to thank our Russian friends for their hospitality! We enjoyed our time in Cherskii very much and it was very impressive for all of us to experience this region during the polar winter. Your hospitality was great, the food you cooked for us was always delicious and your support of our work was outstanding.

Moose stew. © M. Hertel
Lunch break with slices of raw frozen fish (a Siberian delicacy). © M. Hertel

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The Siberian Winter by Fanny

During our time in Siberia we experienced a wide range of winter weather, from bright and sunny with extreme cold temperatures around -30°C to cloudy, stormy weather with wind speeds up to 15 m/s and moderate temperature conditions around zero. I was often asked how the extreme cold temperatures feel, but to be honest I cannot give a simple answer to this because the temperature itself is just one of the factors influencing the working conditions in the field. Probably the most important factor is the wind, which makes it very uncomfortable outside even if the temperatures are not too low. Still, proper clothing is important and one should wear a lot of layers to have a proper isolation system - with the right equipment it is no problem to withstand extreme weather, so thanks to AWI again for supporting our expedition with all the warm clothes you could think about.

Not just the weather, but also the whole infrastructure system on the site is different compared to the conditions we had in the summer. Last year boardwalks, which connect the towers to the central area, made out of halved pallets were installed at our site to minimize the impact of walking on the tundra ecosystem. These boardwalks were completely covered by deep snow now, and it was possible to go to the towers directly by snowmobile. With this snowmobile it is possible to transport heavy equipment (and scientists) to the tower easily and fast.

Russian worker and Fanny Kittler are going to the tower by snow mobile. © M. Hertel

On the other hand, the trip from the station to the site is much more complicated. During the summer we used to go by boat, which takes about 30 min in each direction, and was quite convenient since our site is directly connected to the station by a system of river channels. Now, it is possible to go by car because the river is frozen deeply (up to 2m of ice). However, there is no direct road but a solid snow path we used every day, and over time this track it became more “concrete”. To keep up the quality of this ‘road’, our Russian partners prepared the track by going there with a truck, where a big piece of metal is attached to “plough” the route. During the first half of our stay it was no problem to reach the site, and transport was even faster (and warmer) than by boat. But as soon as the weather shifted to snowing and stormy winds the situation changed completely. The “road” was absent and we got stuck in the deep snow, which has a texture described better as sand. So we had to dig ourselves out of the snow or push the car out of the deep snow quite often, sometimes even several times during one trip. At the end we became quite organized and skilled and are proved for the Siberian winter now.

Our special plough service. © M. Hertel
Got stuck? Olaf Kolle, Fanny Kittler and Nikita Zimov (from left to right) try to shuffle the car out of the deep snow. © M. Hertel

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The site by Fanny

When we finally arrived in Cherskii we first had to adapt to the time and climate zone because we had a shift in time of +10 hours and differences in temperature of around 40°C, compared to Germany. Still, with no time to waste we soon prepared ourselves and the equipment and went to measurement site, which is located about 20 km upstream from the research station.  

As to be expected, during the winter the working conditions at the site are completely different then during the summer. The most obvious difference is of course the presence of snow. At this time of the year, the observation site is completely covered by snow with a depth of around 50-80 cm. All small-scale pattern such as tussocks and small shrubs are therefore hidden, and the site is mainly just a white flat wide area. On the positive side, the absent of mosquitos is a highly welcome feature during the winter and makes the outdoor work much more comfortable even with colder temperatures.

Impressions from the site. © M. Hertel

Concerning our measurement setup, two eddy-covariance towers, each co-located with a transect of chamber measurements, are installed within the tussock tundra. One measurement area is placed within a tundra patch disturbed by a drainage ring (installed in 2004), while the instruments installed in a nearby reference area monitor the conditions for a natural reference ecosystem. Both of the measurements areas are located close to the Ambolikha river, a small side stream of the Kolyma, in a distance of ~ 800 m, with joint central facilities in a central position. These facilities include e.g. a generator house, which is an old trailer for electricity supply, a storage container and a winter house (wooden house placed at the top of a container). It is quite impressive to have a fully equipped house at the site, which is mainly used for accommodation of the worker who is responsible for the general maintenance of the instruments and the generator. For our research team, it is nice place to go and warm up during the breaks. There is a stove to heat up and a gas cooker, so we even have a warm meal in the middle of the Siberian tundra. I have to admit this is not how I imagined field work when I started this project but I will definitely not complain about these additions.

The tower measurement system at the drained site. © M. Hertel
The container house at central maintenance area. © M. Hertel

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Before I will start my second blog considering the traveling to Siberia, which can be special, I want to use the opportunity to inform you that our group is also involved into another project called PAGE21, which focus on changing permafrost in the Artic and its global effects during the 21st century. It is similar to CarboPerm but is funded by the EU. For this project me and other people of the team have already written blogs and I will also writing a blog about this field trip, so do not be confused if you find similar information there.

Traveling to Cherskii is always an adventure. Not just the traveling itself but also the preparation beforehand, the trip itself and the spots you can visit in-between. Last year we had some shipping problems with our equipment and had to postpone our trip to Cherskii for approximately one week. But this year everything worked well and the boxes with the equipment were there in time.

Due to a relatively small total amount of equipment we had to ship to Cherskii this year, the preparation before the trip was not too long. But there was one special thing to do: Get some equipment, especially clothing, with is capable to withstand extreme weather conditions and protect us from freezing during field trips with very low temperatures. Luckily the Alfred Wegener Institute, one of our partners within the project, has a big storage with all kinds of special equipment, where we borrowed a lot of useful things. Thanks for that again, it is very helpful now and I cannot, or better will not, imagine how it would be without these.

Facing the mammoth. © M. Hertel

During the trip itself we had the chance to visit the city of Yakutsk. The last times when somebody from our team was traveling to Cherskii it was one long but continuously trip, i.e. without the need for stopovers. This time, we were not able to do this because they changed the flight plans and we had to stay overnight in Yakutsk, but this was a nice opportunity to explore the “coldest-city” as it is often called. Yakutsk is the capital of the Sakha Republic and inhabits nearly 300.000 citizens. If you visit the city it is like to be in two different worlds. There are modern and fancy glass-buildings next to traditional wooden houses. In Yakutsk we walked around the city center, tried traditional pastry and visited the mammoth museum. In total it was a highly interesting day and I can just recommend visiting the city if you have the chance.

Ice skating area next to the mammoth museum in Yakutsk. © M. Hertel
Impressions from the flight to Cherskii. © M. Hertel

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Hello! The blog of the CarboPerm project is now online and I will be one of the first reporting about field trips in the context of this project, in our case about our activities in Cherskii. We, the Max-Planck Institute of Biogeochemistry in Jena, are running a scientific measurement site near Cherskii, in the Northeastern part of Siberia. The site was re-activated last summer during the field trip in June/July 2013. Now we are back for installing new instruments and maintaining the site in general. By “we” I mean:
Olaf Kolle and Martin Hertel are part of the field and instrumentation group. They already have been to Cherskii a couple of times during 2002-2005, when another team of our institute conducted measurements and were also part of the team last year, when we re-activated our measurement site. I am very happy that they joined our team and travel with me because of their experience in traveling to Siberia, assembling measurement systems in complex environments and working in extreme climatic conditions.

I, Fanny Kittler, am part of the department of biogeochemical systems and joined the group of “Integrating surface-atmosphere Exchange Processes across Scales - Modeling and Monitoring” in late fall of 2012. During my PhD I will focus on carbon and water fluxes measured mainly by the eddy-covariance technique and what environmental factors drive these fluxes on different temporal and spatial scales. Furthermore I am interested in studying special micrometeorological conditions, e.g. the impact of extremely low temperatures during polar winters, which can have influence on the quality of the measured fluxes.

Fanny Kittler, Olaf Kolle and Martin Hertel. © F. Kittler

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Samoylov Island: Talik Drilling - Spring2014


I am at the airport in Vienna waiting for my flight back home. The EGU is over – I do skip the convener’s reception – I just wanna go home!

Here a short review what has happened the last days:

Tiksi is not that bad: cinema, 2 small “restaurants”, a gym centre. However, being there alone sucks. I have visited the office of the Lena Delta Reserve to meet old friends, and what was really essential, to use internet for re-booking of flights and to find a way how to be in time for the talk at the EGU.

I’ll make it short: the air company Yakutia send in deed the new machine to bring all 13 passengers to Yakutsk safely. The Lena River still has a thick ice cover and is used by cars as an ice street.

Frozen Lena River around Yakutsk. © S. Zubrzycki
Honours to outstanding inhabitants of the Sakha Republic. © S. Zubrzycki

In Yakutsk I could visit friends from the Permafrost Institute as well as take part in great celebrations of the Day of the Sakha Republic on 27th of April. There were a lot of people granted with medals by the president. Pilots and other helpers were honoured who helped the inhabitants of Tiksi to survive the winter while in February 2013 the heating system broke down with less than -40 °C outside. The pilots played an important role since all children, later also women were brought to Yakutsk because living in Tiksi got hard when even at home the temperatures were not higher than -20 °C!

However, this day was a sunny day and all celebrants were happy enjoying this festivity. Many of them were wearing their traditional colourful costumes. There were traditional cultural groups performing singing and dancing. This was for me a welcome compensation for the staying in Tiksi without any entertainment worthy of mention.

In front of the statue of Platon Oyunskiy, a Yakut poet, scientist and social activist. © S. Zubrzycki
Yakut women in traditional costumes. © S. Zubrzycki
Live traditional music at the Oyunsky Square. © S. Zubrzycki
Great costumes. © S. Zubrzycki

From here on everything went quite fast and I landed in Vienna, Austria on 30th of April, at noon. I took the direct bus to the conference venue at the Vienna International Center and was ready for my talk at 4 p.m.

But what has happened on Samoylov after Misha and me left the island? How long is the second core, and have the drilling team found unfrozen sediments underlying the deeper parts of the river channels?

Curious about? Fasten your seat belts and stay tuned! We will be back soon.

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Our Drilling Dream Team got smaller. Sasha went back to Vladivostok and me (Seba) to Tiksi. The rest of the group stayed on Samoylov to go on drilling.

Our team between the drilling equipment. In front "the small one", behind us "the middle one". © S. Zubrzycki

But what has happened in the meantime?

We are a “drilling team”. However, we do more than just holes into the permafrost. To support the results of further analyses of the cores we have, we made extensive GPR measurements. And for those of you who think, it is just to put the antenna on the ground and to wait for a nice picture to appear on the laptop – NO! These measurements mean to pace around for hours even if the wind blows with more than 15 m/s. Once, the data is recorded and you are back to station, you have to interpret the images. This takes hours… But we got really interesting profiles showing the river bed, the ice thickness and more.

GPR work. Walking from left to right...© S. Zubrzycki
GPR work. Walking from right to left...© S. Zubrzycki

So we spent our nights with these images. When we no longer could see them, we went over to “slaughter” the core. This means to saw it into two halves. One half is for the archive. The second half we cut to share among us. After finishing this work for the first core a MI8 helicopter came to Samoylov Island. Sasha and I took the chance to get this kind of business flight and to save time going back to Tiksi. The helicopter needs around 30 minutes whereas the truck more than 6 hours…

So we prepared and packed our entire things, said goodbye to everyone on the station and took off. On the flight to Tiksi we enjoyed the view on the frozen Lena River Delta. The snow cover no longer was continuous. There were a lot of dark spots accelerating the thawing process.

The frozen Lena River Delta with the famous Stolb Island in the background. © S. Zubrzycki

In Tiksi we were picked up from the airport and brought to our accommodations. Tiksi, the “Gate to the sea”, is an interesting place. For those of you who don’t know it – just google for. For me it is the seventh time here and I see a lot of changes. You won’t believe it but there is a 3D theatre with up to 6 movies per day here! There is also a new church building there. What has not changed over the years are the streets (covered by tons of snow and thick layers of slippery ice) and the house entrances (dark and dirty).

Sasha was lucky to get a flight home just one day after arrival to Tiksi. And then the weather changed and my flight to Yakutsk was cancelled…

I am still in Tiksi and wait for a nice plane (the air company promised to send a western Bombardier Dash 8 instead of the Antonov 24) that will bring me to Yakutsk, where all connecting flights anyway have already gone!

And actually, I have to give a talk at the EGU in very few days….

The gate to the town, which is the "gate to the sea". © S. Zubrzycki
Tiski. A street view. © S. Zubrzycki

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(2014.04.25)Now with pix!!!

(2014.04.21)Since feeding the website with photographs from field is hardly possible – just the text and the captions of the photos, that I will upload in Yakutsk. Tighten your seat belts, folks!


Dear friends at home and anywhere in the world,

meanwhile we are 5 days on Samyolov Island! Time is running mercilessly fast… The last three days were very windy but sunny and we enjoyed working whole days outside in the cold! We want to start with the preliminary success: we got a core of 830 cm, which is the longest core ever taken from a Lena River Delta channel. However, it was a long rocky road to get this core.

But let us report step by step!

We were cordially received at the station. The stuff here is always great with ideas how to solve problems that occur when equipment is exposed the harsh environment here in the north. It is also great just to think about work and when back to station there is always something tasty to eat – thank to Regina.

In this short period of time we learned to act as a great working team with duties each one of us was aware of. This is essential while coring permafrost since few seconds can be enough to freeze your coring barrel in the borehole for ever!

The Team: Misha, Seba, Sasha, Gosha, San Sanych, Tyoma. © S. Zubrzycki

The site we have chosen for the first core is located in the shallow part of the Lena River channel. The ice thickness was 55 cm. We spent the last 3 days at this site and we felt like in the complete solitude. Around us everything was white. Since we have worked on ice, the surface was completely even. Only the constant and very loud sound of the drilling machine, the generator for the air compressor and the compressor itself, disturbed this atmosphere!

Our site with the machine and the coring team. © S. Zubrzycki

Drilling and coring is a hard job. Everything you touch is really heavy. When you do this job in Siberia and it is cold outside, you can be sure that the steel equipment is the same cold as the air... Once you think you have a piece of core and you got all the extension poles and the barrel out of the borehole, the next step begins. To retrieve the core from the barrel is as same hard as coring. Now the game is getting hot! You have to heat up the barrel with fire and simultaneously use the compressed air to squeeze the core out of it! As long as this last step is not finished, you will not breathe deeply.

Stay tuned!

Fire on ice in the Lena River Delta. Retrieving the core from the barrel. © S. Zubrzycki

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Hello from the Samoylov Research Station in the Lena River Delta! We arrived here on April, 16th without any problems. However, all of us made exhausting travels. Mikhail Grigoriev, Georgi Maksimov and Alexander Maslov are from the Permafrost Institute in Yakutsk, Alexander Charkin is from the Pacific Oceanological Institute in Vladivostok, Artyom Yakimov is from the Vilyui Permafrost Research Station in Chernyshevsky (Mirninsky district) and Sebastian Zubrzycki from the Institute of Soil Science at the Universität Hamburg.

After up to 11 hours of flying and one single night in Tiksi we took the tracked vehicle (vezdekhod) and a 7 tons heavy Ural to made our way over the frozen Laptev Sea and the channels of the Lena River to our final destination - Samoylov Island. These last 165 km we made in 8 hours!

On the "road" to Samoylov Island. © S. Zubrzycki

The Lana River Delta, the largest arctic delta extends over an area of around 32,000 km². It is located in the zone of continuous permafrost with depths up to 800 m. Around 10,000 km² of the delta area are occupied by river channels and large closed water bodies. These areas are supposed to be underlain by unfrozen sediments and subhydric soils, so called taliks.

To investigate this neglected but substantial part of this delta the CarboPerm group will drill into the riverbed to get cores for further biogeochemical and physicochemical analyses. To investigate the depth of the unfrozen layer, the talik, we will use ground penetrating radar and of course will double-check the depth by drilling.

Since the weather these days is really bad - we have a purga, which means a snow storm - we had two full days to get familiar with the GPR equipment and to install all required software packages as well as to complete the drilling machine with all needed parts for the next days.

Now we are ready for a warming sauna after this cold and windy day!

The Samoylov Research Station in the snow storm. © S. Zubrzycki

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Our summer school at the Ladoga Lake has just started!!

> more here

News from the summer expedition to the delta!

> more here

In September 2016 our "St. Petersburg summer school" for young scientists will be supported by the DAAD "Go-East Summer Schools" programme.

> more here

Our new bilateral Master's Program CORELIS will start with the first cohort in summer 2016!

> more here

Great photographs from our Summer School at Lake Ladoga available on-line!

> more here

The PhD Meeting in Gülpe was a great success!

> more here

Late summer on Samoylov Island. Read how our six scientists are going!

Scientists from Hamburg are in the Lena River Delta.

> more here

Impressions of the Polar day, the spring flood and the ice breakup. 

> more here