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New Sea Ice Research, February-March 2012
From February 25-March 10, the Arctic Geophysics Research Class were in Barrow, Alaska to advance their work on the geophysics of the arctic sea ice. Half of the students in the class traveled to Barrow for one week at a time.
This group used a number of pieces of equipment including a capacitively coupled resistivity array whose effectiveness in imaging the sea ice had been demonstrated by previous Radford research classes. They also used ground penetrating radar to gauge its effectiveness in this work, ultimately showing that this equipment could not image the ice due to the lack of a well-defined boundary between the overlying ice and the seawater. This was initially surprising, but upon further study not unreasonable due to the complicated nature of the ice/water transition zone.
The new thrust of this year's research was the investigation of a potential correlation between the temperature of the ice surface and the thickness of the ice. It is known that the seawater just below the ice--no matter the thickness of the ice--is around (-)2 degrees C (29F). The team reasoned from simple thermal conduction that the temperature of the surface of the ice should be inversely proportinal to the thickness of the ice. The data appears to strongly support this correlation. The results of this investigation will be reported at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union.
Accompanying the research team were Physics Instructor Mythianne Shelton and one pre-service (RU student) teacher. Mrs. Shelton and this student were responsible for connecting the ongoing sea ice research to K-12 classrooms back in southwestern Virginia, as well as classrooms in Maryland and Florida. Mrs. Shelton and her student managed interactive Skype sessions that included more than 500 students each week. Often starting at 4am local (Barrow) time, these sessions encompassed question-and-answer sessions about their experiences in Barrow, live lessons about the arctic for the students on the east coast, interviews with the ice research team, and walks out into the sub-zero temperatures to give the students as much of a "feel" for the environment as possible. The participating students and teachers were excited about this unique experience.