State of the Planet

News from the Columbia Climate School


Code Charlie Turns to Code Delta


Since the first week of the Spring Campaign we have had a planned flight from Thule to Fairbanks. This trans Arctic flight will provide a valuable overview of the icecap and the condition of the Northwest Passage. The weather has caused reschedules in that flight until we are down to the last days of the DC-8 part of the mission. Soon we will be heading out and the next phase, flying the P3 out of Kangerlussuaq, will begin. Would this Fairbanks line actually be flown?

The last week has been unusual. I gleaned from a ‘local’ source that it was the first 48 hour period in at least the last 7 months that Thule Airbase had gone to Code Charlie and then to Code Delta. Code Charlie clocks winds at greater than 35 knots and less than 3/4 mile visibility. Code Delta winds are greater than 50 knots and visibility less than 100 yards. In Code Charlie, only essential personnel are allowed to move around base. In Code Delta, no one is allowed to move from their shelter. One member of the team took a photo of the TV weather conditions with 65 knot winds and 90 knot gusts.








Thule pre and during Code Delta level storm
Thule pre and during Code Delta level storm


Of course with ‘lock down’ conditions we were unable to dine at the Dundas Buffett. We were shifted from meals of bacon or sausage for breakfast, cold cuts or a hot dish for lunch, and a pork loin, chop, or rib selection for dinner to the storm rations (Meals-Ready-to-Eat: MREs). These ‘meals in a bag’ aren’t as bad as they look. My meat patty and macaroni and cheese were tasty, but I won’t be stocking up on them any time soon.

Finally the weather cleared and after a two day break focused on base clean up we got the all clear to fly again. Due to the short time remaining to collect data in this part of the mission the long awaited flight to Fairbanks was shortened.Instead of an overnight stay in Alaska the decision was made to fly as far as the fuel and time would allow. Although visibility floated in and out and ice formed along the outside of the plane, about two thirds of the data was collected by the time we reached the flight turn around point at MacKenzie Delta, Canada. We considered the flight a success, and I think the whole mission team was glad to to say this one was completed.

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