With approval from authorities in Iceland and advice from experts, we traveled to a few hundred meters from the western margin of the Langjökull ice cap, chosen for its size, (the second-largest glacier in Iceland) as well as its slope and varied conditions of brightness.

The approximate location of test site is in the middle of this map.

Standing on the glacier, looking uphill.

The team for this field test includes (from left to right):

  • Gregory Barth, who took samples, assembled testing frameworks for the cameras, took GPS measurements as well as other notes, and shot photos, some of which you see here.
  • Glaciologist Dr. Thorsteinn Thorsteinsson was the lead of the Icelandic Meteorological Office (IMO) team members for this project. He suggested this area of Langjökull glacier, obtained permissions for the field test work, arranged the logistics of transportation and team from the IMO, assisted in team transportation, rented safety gear for everyone, helped coordinate the IMO team to ready the instruments, and worked with the team to position and installi instrumentation on the site.
  • Jóhannes Andrésson and Hákon Halldórsson— both from the Icelandic Meterological Office—helped position, install, and program the instrumentation.
  • Kristinn, of tour company Into the Glacier, which coordinated safe transportation of our team and gear for this scientific research expedition, and Dr. Leslie Field, pictured and described below, who co-led the expedition in collaboration with the Icelandic Met Office.
  • Dr. Leslie Field (in blue, second photo), of Bright Ice Initiative, co-led the expedition.  She invented the surface albedo modification approach that this test is based on, and refined and tested it over the years with colleagues and volunteers.  The approach to use for a sloping glacier had to be modified from previous work by colleagues Dr. Doug Johnson and Dr. Tony Manzara (see below). For this expedition, Dr. Field’s responsibilities included raising funds for the work, purchasing measurement equipment needed for the test, coordinating the US team’s logistics, determining the specific test location on the glacier, and taking soil and ice test samples above and below the test sites before any material was deployed, and below the sites after the material was deployed, following detailed guidance from Dr Nuzhat Qazi (see below). Leslie also documented the trip and testing with many of the photos you see here.

Also on the team, but not present on-site:

  • Agust Por Gunnlaugsson, of IMO, prepared the weather stations and albedometers before the expedition. (note to Wendy, there are accents over u in Agust and over o in Por.
  • Dr. Doug Johnson and Dr. Tony Manzara, did substantial testing in Minnesota before the expedition, and Doug worked with a manufacturer to devise the clay-based material used in this test.
  • Dr. Nuzhat Qazi, an Indigenous environmental scientist from the Himalayas expert in water quality, advised us from afar on environmental impact assessment and water quality assessment procedures.

Gear included: weather stations, devices for albedo (brightness) measurement, ablation stakes to monitor snow and ice thickness, sample bottles and bags, materials to test for effectiveness and safety of ice preservation, notebooks, labels, markers, pens, cameras, ice crampons, solar cells, batteries, automated cameras, data loggers, GPS measurement tools, small rocks to mark corners of the sites, ice axes and picks, a steam drill to help drive in stakes to hold the equipment in place, PVC piping and plastic sheeting to define the test areas, hollow glass microspheres (HGMs) and white glacier granules (WGGs), seed spreaders to distribute the materials in the respective test areas, sandwiches, water, and gear for the cold (not all pictured here).

Assembling a solar panel to power the equipment and a weather station which will measure air temperature, humidity, wind speed, and wind direction.

Weather-station data are stored in a control box which can be accessed by phone.

Six ablation stakes were drilled into the ice surface using a steam drill. Ablation stakes “allow point measurement of both snow depth and snow melt against the reference of the labeled stake” (usgs.gov). Wooden plugs were placed at the bottom of each stake, to prevent the stake from melting and sinking into the ice.

Three more stakes were set to hold time-lapse cameras which will record melting levels and possible snowfall events at the test site. Positions of all stakes were recorded using a GPS receiver.

The view of a time-lapse camera here (green device) also shows two ablation stakes in the background.

For wind protection during materials application, PVC pipes were assembled into two rectangular frames, which were then connected with vertical pipe sections, forming a boxlike structure 1.5 x 1.5 meters. After application within this box, the structure was then moved and the process repeated—for WGG application over a 9 x 9 meter area, and then for the HGM application over a 4 x 2.25 meter area.

Because the application of reflective materials needs to be effective on sloped ice surfaces a record was made of each point’s elevation as well as its coordinates.

Taking a GPS reading.

The flow of water increased over the course of the day, as areas initially frozen in the morning were melting. A lot.

An ice axe was used to chip ice for ice samples and to clear ice for collecting soil and meltwater samples.

Soil/rock dust, accumulated at the surface over many years as the ice melts away from it. Chipping at the surface reveals how thin it is in this location. Even a thin layer of darkness can draw heat from the sun. We aim to find out how well a thin layer of brightness can deflect it.