The Ice-Mitt tour is a project that is being undertaken by a group of Polar Engineers from Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering. We study the microstructure of arctic and antarctic sea ice, specifically the characteristics of the brine channels and air pockets in sea ice that make it so porous and permeable. We study these properties through a variety of methods including Micro CT scanning as well as polarized photography of thin sections. We aim to observe the differences between the structures of first year sea ice and multi year sea ice, and therefore the differences between their permeability to substances moving from the ocean into the atmosphere through the ice. This research is becoming more necessary for climate models as the volume of multi year sea ice in the polar regions is decreasing more and more each year with increased summer melt, and is being replaced by first year sea ice the next winter. Will this shift have an effect on the atmosphere?
The project begins in Hanover, NH in the Fall of 2014 with the construction and testing of the Ice-Mitt boxes. As sea ice is situated between the ocean and the atmosphere, it naturally forms a temperature gradient throughout its body, as the ocean is much warmer than the air. Therefore, the Ice-Mitt boxes, constructed and designed by Thayer School of Engineering students, are unique refrigerators that allow you to program either end of the box to be different temperatures to establish the same temperature gradient that the ice was at in its natural situation.
Next, on February 1, 2015 we will be flying to Barrow, AK to start our six week field research session and where we would have shipped our Ice-Mitt boxes in mid January. Once we arrive our goal will be to core 10-20 ice cores that we will either store in the Ice-Mitt boxes, or pack in dry ice for the trip home that will begin in mid March. We will choose our coring spots based on variable ocean currents and depths, factor that would effect the structure of each ice core differently.
After the six weeks, we will head back home, driving with all of our ice from Alaska back to Dartmouth College, stopping at multiple schools and institutions along the way for outreach sessions. This road trip will take 2 weeks and so far we will make stops at 8 institutions. (if you are or know of a teacher in or around Ohio or Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and would like us to stop at your school let us know!) We’ll be back to Hanover by March 30th!