Monday, March 28, 2016

April 5-6: Trip to Boise, Idaho

Last week Thomas and Gabe flew to Boise, Idaho to meet with HP, Tate, and Forrest for a few days to test the radar equipment we will be using in Greenland. We spent the first day touring the Boise State University Department of Geosciences and acquainting ourselves with some of the equipment inside the comforts of a warm building. Everyone got to practice assembling and using the 100 MHz, 500 MHz, and 1 GHz radar systems in addition to the Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) radar. These systems will be used to analyze the amount of snow accumulation in the top 500, 100, and 20 meters, respectively, of the Greenland Ice Sheet during our upcoming traverse.

HP pointing out different components of the FMCW radar system

The next day we drove out to Stanley, Idaho, to test our equipment on the snow. Unsurprisingly, it is extremely difficult to simulate conditions of the Greenland Ice Sheet during April in Idaho, but we enjoyed the warm weather and sunshine during out testing. We assembled the 100 MHz and 500 MHz systems in a train of sleds behind two snowmobiles and attached the FMCW system to a third.

Tate examining the setup of the 500 MHz (left) and 100 MHz (right) radar systems

After a few hours of plugging in various cables, setting up the GPS, zip-tie-ing pieces of equipment to the sleds, and determining how exactly to drag everything behind a snowmobile, we were able to actually test our equipment. Since the systems are very fragile, we had to start our tests at a very low speed and gradually speed up to determine how fast we can drive without rattling the radar too much. Additionally, the computer takes a while to process all the incoming data, so our speed on the ice sheet will be limited by the number of antennas we are dragging and the precision of data we want to acquire.
Tate testing the 500 MHz radar system at 10 mph