The NSIDC Web site and data services are currently having intermittent problems and may be unavailable. We are working to restore these services as soon as possible and apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Please contact NSIDC User Services for assistance.
This data set is comprised of scientific field study notebooks from geologist Carl S. Benson describing his traverses of Greenland from 1952 to 1955. The notebooks contain data on Greenland snow accumulation, snow temperature, stratigraphy, ice sheet facies, and snow densification. Dr. Benson's notebooks also include a supplementary 1956 snow accumulation study done by the U.S. Air Force. The notebooks have been scanned and put into PDF format. In addition, a compendium of Greenland snow accumulation data, compiled by Dr. Benson in 1986, is included that spans 1911 to 1981. It is in ASCII text format.
We kindly request that you cite the use of this data set in a publication using the following citation example. For more information, see our Use and Copyright Web page.
Benson, Carl S. 2013. Greenland Snow Pit and Core Stratigraphy (Analog and Digital Formats). Boulder, Colorado USA: National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Southernmost Latitude: 69° N
Notebooks: PDF and hard-copy notebooks
Compendium: ASCII Text
Dr. Carl S. Benson, currently professor emeritus at University of Alaska, Fairbanks, worked with the Snow, Ice, and Permafrost Research Establishment (SIPRE now CRREL) from 1951 to 1956 to acquire these data (Brewster 2001). Work on the 1952-55 Greenland traverse snow project was performed for the Snow and Ice Basic Research Branch of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under James A. Bender, chief (Benson 1962).
According to Dr. Benson, the study was undertaken for the following reasons.
"A primary question about ice masses of the world today concerns their material balance; i. e., are they in balance with present-day climate or not? In order to answer this question it is necessary to know current rates of accumulation and ablation. A major part of this study is the determination of the amount and distribution of accumulation on the Greenland ice sheet. But the basic purpose has been to extend our knowledge of the overall physical environment of the ice sheet - the accumulation picture is only a part of this. Improvement in our knowledge of the Greenland ice sheet contributes to understanding the nature of ice sheets in general, including extinct ones of the Pleistocene. The primary objective of this study is to demonstrate that the methods of stratigraphy and sedimentation can be successfully applied to the study of snow and firn." (Benson 1962).
During a four-year period from 1952 through 1955, Carl Benson, along with many other individuals and several other organizations, dug and studied 146 snow pits and made 288 supplementary snow hardness profiles with a ramsonde instrument along a 1100 mile traverse in Northwest Greenland (Benson 1962). See Figure 1 for the traverse route. For each exposed pit, temperature, density, ram hardness, and grain size were measured. The data in the notebooks include a listing of all pit locations, a summary matrix of data collected at each station; accumulation data adjusted for Fall 1954 and Fall 1955 reference horizons; average accumulation for all stations; integrated ram hardness (snow density); descriptive stratigraphy, pit profile temperature and density; and pit and core temperature, density, ram hardness, and stratigraphy for each location. Benson's notebooks for 1952 through 1954 were scanned at NSIDC and are available via FTP. As of January 2013, the 1955 notebooks are still in the process of being digitized. The physical notebooks are available for use on-site at NSIDC by appointment.
A good summary and description of this study is provided in Stratigraphic Studies in the Snow and Firn of the Greenland Ice Sheet (Benson 1962). You can download a reprint of this paper from the Defense Technical Information Center Web site.
Table 1 shows the number of stations for each year. The locations of each station can be found in the files in the 01-Benson-Introduction directory on the FTP site.
|Year||No. of Stations|
The notebooks were scanned to create PDF-format files. The files, available via FTP, are organized in directories in a way that mimics how Carl Benson organized his notebooks. For example, Dr. Benson organized his notebooks into 7 groups of physical folders with a title on the outside of each group. The directory structure mimics this folder organization and has directory names with the same (or a very similar) name as on the physical folder. In addition, to preserve the order of the directories and files as organized by Dr. Benson, we added a 2-digit sequential prefix to all names. See Table 2.
These data reside on the FTP site in the G10004/field-notebooks directory. Table 2 describes the directory structure of this directory on the FTP site.
(click name to open that directory)
|01-Benson-Introduction||Contains an introduction and description of the study, a summary of all sampling stations, a summary matrix of data collected at each station, accumulation data adjusted for Fall 1954 and Fall 1955 reference horizons, average accumulation for all stations, and integrated ram hardness (snow density). See Table 3 for a list and description of the files in this directory.|
|02-Meteorological-Data-Party-Crystal-1954||Contains scanned meteorological data sheets with data taken at a sampling of stations during the 1954 traverse.|
|03-French-Central-Station||Contains a supplementary snow pit data set conducted by the U.S. Air Force in 1956.|
|04-Greenland-Pit-Data-1952||Contains the scanned data sheets for the entire 1952 traverse. This directory is further broken up into subdirectories named by station number. The PDF files within them are named by date (DDMMMYYYY).|
|05-Greenland-Pit-Data-1953||Contains the scanned data sheets for the entire 1953 traverse. This directory is further broken up into subdirectories named by station number. The PDF files within them are named by date (DDMMMYYYY).|
|06-Greenland-Pit-Data-1954||Contains the scanned data sheets for the entire 1954 traverse. This directory is further broken up into subdirectories named by station number. The PDF files within them are named by date (DDMMMYYYY).|
|File Name (click file name to download)||Description||Size|
|01-Greenland-Snow-Pit-And-Stratigraphy-Introduction.pdf||Provides an outline of the data in the notebooks, maps of the location of the traverse, reference list, and a table showing proposed locations of snow pits.||5.2 MB|
|02-1952-stations.pdf||Lists the station number, latitude, longitude, date visited, and elevation for each pit visited in 1952.||533 KB|
|03-1953-stations.pdf||Lists the station number, latitude, longitude, date visited, and elevation for each pit visited in 1953.||1.2 MB|
|04-1954-stations.pdf||Lists the station number, latitude, longitude, date visited, and elevation for each pit visited in 1954.||1.6 MB|
|05-1955-stations.pdf||Lists the station number, latitude, longitude, date visited, and elevation for each pit visited in 1955.||1.5 MB|
|06-station-summary-matrix.pdf||Summary of the stations visited and the work done at each.||6.8 MB|
|07-accumulation-data-all-stations-unadjusted.pdf||Compilation of the accumulation data for each station for each year adjusted to the Fall 1954 reference horizon. Contains 9 tables and 1 summary drawing.||5.5 MB|
|08-accumulation-data-1955-stations-adjusted.pdf||Accumulation data for all 1955 stations adjusted to the 1955 reference horizon. Contains 8 tables and 1 summary table.||4.1 MB|
|09-summary-accumulation-data-adjusted.pdf||Summary of all accumulation data available for the entire traverse adjusted to the Fall 1955 reference horizon. Contains 1 summary figure.||950 KB|
|10-summary-average-accumulation.pdf||Summary of average accumulation at each station. Contains 1 table.||700 KB|
|11-integrated-RAM-hardness.pdf||Summary of the integrated ram hardness values for all stations.||9.6 MB|
|12-RAM-hardness-vs-temp.pdf||A table of the comparison of Ram Hardness and Temperature for 1952-1955.||6 MB|
The compendium provides snow accumulation data from 1911 to 1981 but is not at any regular temporal resolution. Dr. Benson compiled these data from a number of different sources (including his 1952-56 Greenland traverses). The compendium is made up of three ASCII text files. See Table 4.
|File (click to download file)||Description||Size|
|column-descriptions.txt||Describes the columns of the data in the data files.||3 KB|
|greenland-snow-accumulation-1911-1981.txt||Contains the time series of the snow accumulation data.||61 KB|
|references.txt||Contains a list of the references for the data. Each reference in this file is numbered and corresponds to a number in the reference column of the greenland-snow-accumulation-1911-1981.txt file which indicates the source of the data.||6.5 KB|
PDF files range in size from 800 KB to 136 MB. The total volume of the digitized collection is 2.8 GB.
Benson, C.S. 1962. Stratigraphic Studies in the Snow and Firn of the Greenland Ice Sheet, CRREL Research Report 70.
Brewster, K. N. 2001.Interview of Carl S. Benson by Karen Nichols Brewster. Ohio State University Knowledge Bank. https://kb.osu.edu/dspace/handle/1811/6050 (accessed 1/23/13).
Ragle, R.H. and T. C. Davis. 1962. South Greenland Traverses, Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 4, p. 129-131.
Carl S. Benson
NSIDC User Services
National Snow and Ice Data Center
CIRES, 449 UCB
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0449 USA
phone: +1 303.492.6199
fax: +1 303.492.2468
form: Contact NSIDC User Services
These notebooks were digitized by NSIDC's analog archivist, Allaina Wallace; volunteer, Anna Reznik; and work study students.