Image 1, Picture of musk ox on the tundra in North East Greenland National Park. Preserving the best of the landscape in national parks is a U.S. invention that much of the world has adopted. The largest national park, Northeast Greenland National Park, is in NE Greenland and was founded in 1974. Both Dr. Anandakrishnan and Dr. Alley have conducted research in it. The pictures here were taken by Richard Alley in or just outside of the national park, during a research expedition to Scoresby Sund in the autumn of 2005. Enjoy!
Image 2, Picture of a glacier. Most of the park is on the Inland Ice, the great, two-mile-thick ice sheet that covers most of the island of Greenland, and one that could raise global sea levels about 23 feet (7 m) if melted. However, some of the park includes spectacular coastal mountains and the rich adjacent seas. This glacier has melted back over the last century from the light-colored regions around it. The mountain peaks from which the glacier flows are barely visible above the clouds.
Image 3, Picture of Corridoren Glacier. Corridoren Glacier. The great Inland Ice of Greenland is thick and extensive, but many smaller glaciers exist in the coastal mountains. The black stripes on Corridoren are medial moraines—each is a band of rocks that were picked up by the ice, or that fell on the ice, from a ridge that separated two tributary glaciers. The picture was taken from a helicopter flying just below a low cloud deck, looking west into the interior of Milne Land.
Image 4, Picture of cotton grass on the tundra. Cotton Grass. The tundra is one of the most beautiful, and least appreciated, landscapes on earth. Cotton grass, shown here, grows in wet places, and produces seeds that are carried on the wind. The picture was taken in Kjove Land, just north of Scoresby Sund.
Image 5, Picture of a mushroom nestled in bearberry. Bearberry provides the most spectacular fall colors on the tundra. Here, a mushroom nestles amid the fruit and leaves of the tundra plant. The fruit is edible but not especially tasty.
Image 6, Picture of a Fulmar (a bird similar to the albatross) flying over the sea ice. Fulmar and Sea Ice. Fulmars are akin to small albatross, true sea birds with the special glands along their noses that allow them to excrete the salt from salt water, so that there is no need for the birds to go find fresh water. Fulmars often “surf” the wind around boats, or skim low over the water. Behind this fulmar is sea ice, frozen ocean water. Freezing the ocean is not as easy as freezing freshwater, both because salty water freezes at a lower temperature, and because seawater becomes denser as it cools all the way to the freezing point, and may sink to great depths in the ocean, allowing warmer water to flow in and replace it.
Image 7, Picture of icebergs in Scoresby Sund. Icebergs, Scoresby Sund. A lot of snow falls on Greenland—enough each year to make a layer about 1/25 inch (1 mm) over the whole ocean. About half Greenland’s snow melts and runs into the ocean. The other half flows to the coast and breaks off as icebergs, as seen here. Recent warming has increased Greenland’s loss of meltwater and icebergs; the ice sheet and surrounding mountain glaciers are shrinking and helping raise sea level. This is freshening the north Atlantic, favoring winter freezing; the future may see warmer summers but colder winters from this strange situation.
Image 8, Picture of Scoresby Sund. Kap Brewster. The south side of the great fjord of Scoresby Sund is guarded by the bird cliffs of Kap Brewster. Huge flocks of sea birds nest high on the rocks and feed in the rich ocean nearby. The steep slopes were carved by the glaciers that once filled Scoresby Sund.
Image 9, Picture of a musk ox next to a tent. Musk Ox, Schuchert Dal (Valley). The dramatic Schuchert Valley spreads north from Scoresby Sund, and is well-populated by musk oxen. With about the same size, shape and speed as minivans (not really, but not that far off!), musk oxen are beautiful denizens of the tundra. More closely related to mountain goats than to bison, the musk oxen form defensive circles around their young if threatened, as shown in the first slide of this show. Here, a bull has wandered into our research camp. The best way to handle musk oxen is to leave them alone; although typically peaceful, they have sharp and potentially lethal horns, and they are a lot faster and bigger than you are.
Image 10, Picture of Alpefjord. Alpefjord, a major tributary to Kong Oscar Fjord, north of Scoresby Sund. The glaciers flow from the high ground at the top of the picture toward the sea at the bottom. The glaciers now end about where the white ends, but extended much farther in the recent past, as shown by the piles of rock and rubble, called moraines, that surround the ice. Almost every mountain glacier on Earth for which we have data has shrunk over the last century or so. Mountain glaciers have enough frozen water to raise sea level globally by about 1 foot (just under 1/3 m) if all melted.
Image 11, Picture of an arete. An arete (a knife-edge ridge left when two glaciers erode into a highland, one from each side) sits above glaciers in the Stauning Alps of the Northeast Greenland National Park. Many knowledgeable people consider the Stauning Alps to be the most spectacular alpine scenery on the planet. There is no objective way to pick a “winner”, but the Stauning Alps are truly stunning.
Image 12, Picture of an Rainbow and an icerberg. Rainbow and iceberg, Scoresby Sund. The warmest summertime weather is well below freezing at the top of the ice cap, but temperatures in the 50s Fahrenheit are common along the coast, where the limited summertime precipitation often comes as rain.