Snowpack changes in Arctic Russia

Location: Khibiny Mountains, Kola Peninsula, Russia. Lat & Long: 67.639°N, 33.718°E

Leader: Rebecca Vignols   Members: Iain Rudkin, Gareth Rees, Yulia Zaika 

Affiliation: Cambridge University, British Antarctic Survey

Dates: 13 April to 19 May 2017

Snowpack Russia 2 Snowpack Russia 3 Snowpack Russia 3

Objectives: We will collect scientific field data in the Russian Khibiny Mountains. This will enable the study of the spatial and temporal evolution of various snow parameters throughout the melt season: snow extent, snow-water equivalent, density, albedo, grain size, liquid-water content and snow depth. We will stay in the Khibiny Educational and Scientific Station. This is a continuation of our very successful Research in 2016.

Friday April 14: Departure day - we're off!  Follow us on  
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Today we fly to Moscow and will be spending one night in the city. We need to pick up some science kit from Dr Olga Tutubalina, our main contact at Moscow State University, before leaving for the field tomorrow.

Saturday April 15: After a successful collection of our kit yesterday, we flew to Apatity this morning. Apatity is the closest airport to the Khibiny Mountains in which we are undertaking fieldwork. Luckily this year we were be able to land in that airport, unlike in our previous season, in which the plane had to land in Murmansk as a result of low visibility conditions at the Apatity airport! We have just arrived at the Moscow State University station and the plan for the rest of the day is to buy food and unpack.

Sunday April 16: Today’s start was slow, we decided to take the morning off as we have been getting up before 6 for the past 2 days for our flights. We went into the field to start measurements this afternoon – we collected data at 3 snowpits, getting back into the swing of things! The station dog followed us all day and stood guard by all our snowpits. Thankfully, he is much better behaved this year and did not destroy any of our snowpits in an attempt to “save” us. All in all – today was a great day.

This evening, we will work on a draft plan of our measurement sites for the next week based on the weather forecast. These plans will be reassessed each morning based on the daily forecast, and the past few days’ conditions, to make sure all areas visited are safe. As it is the melting season here in the Khibiny Mountains, the risk of avalanche is high, and plans must be made carefully. Tomorrow is the start of our full days in the field!

April 17 to April 24: Last week started off well with two sunny days, before becoming very snowy. Finally, after 5 days of constant snowfall, we saw the return of the sunshine this afternoon. In these eight days, temperatures have drastically changed already, going from -17C on Monday 17th to nearing positive temperatures today (24th) in the sun!

Despite some technical issues with one of our instruments, work is advancing very nicely, and we have made measurements at over 60 snow pits. Working in the same team as last year, we are able to work very efficiently and maximise productivity.

Timma, the station dog, has been following us on all our day trips and has also been providing company in the evenings during data write-up and processing. Iain now grudgingly admits that Timma is “part of the team"!


Contact (through the Arctic Club):

Supported by: NERC; Newnham College Cambridge Research and Travel Grant; Gino Watkins Memorial Fund.

Snowpack in Russia 1

© Iain Rudkin