Writing in the journal Icarus this week, Prof. Carl Murray from Queen Mary Univ. of London’s Astronomy Unit reports that recently discovered disturbances at the very edge of Saturn’s outer bright A ring result from a small icy object that formed within the ring and which may be in the process of migrating out of it. His team have nicknamed the object, “Peggy.”
"We hadn’t seen anything like this before," explains Murray. "We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right."
Greenland’s Ice Holds Record of U.S. Clean Air Act’s Success
The rise and fall of acid rain is a global experiment whose results are preserved in the geologic record.
By analyzing samples from the Greenland ice sheet, Univ. of Washington atmospheric scientists found clear evidence of the U.S. Clean Air Act. They also discovered a link between air acidity and how nitrogen is preserved in layers of snow, according to a paper published in PNAS.
Observatory Gives Researchers a Peek Under Great Lakes’ Ice
Guy Meadows loves winter. It gives the director of Michigan Technological Univ.’s Great Lakes Research Center (GLRC) in the cold, snowy Upper Peninsula a chance to do something few others can: study the Great Lakes under a cover of ice.
“Our arctic-like environment provides a wonderful opportunity to make the GLRC a true year-round research facility,” Meadows says. This winter, for example, the GLRC built and deployed a cabled observatory under the ice off the research center’s dock, on the Portage Waterway, which connects two parts of Lake Superior.
Study Makes Area Around Train Tracks Safer in Winter
Results of an EPFL study on ballast projections in exceptional winter conditions have enabled Swiss Federal Railways (SBB) to set-up measures to improve safety around the tracks.
SBB transports close to one million passengers per day, by any weather even in tough winter conditions. In 2012, striving to better safety, SBB mandated the EPFL Transportation Center to study the phenomenon of ballast projection by very cold weather. The results from this study have enabled SBB to undertake measures of improvement.
Engineers at Carlos III Univ. have designed an optical sensor that detects how much salt is on road surfaces in real time. This avoids the need to spread the substance excessively, because although this prevents ice from forming on roads, it can also harm vehicles, infrastructure and the environment.
It is common to spread salt on roads to prevent ice and the hazards it can entail for traffic. This preventive treatment is based on weather forecasts, but does not take into account that the road can already have enough salt, scattered during previous frost and snowfall.
Engineering Enables Ice Castles; Nature Makes Them Beautiful
Farming is tough during a New Hampshire winter — unless you’re growing icicles.
At the base of Loon Mountain in Lincoln, an ice castle not unlike the frosty palace in the Disney movie “Frozen” is rising from the ground, one icicle at a time. It’s one of three ice castles being built by the same company — the others are in Breckinridge, Colo., and Midway, Utah — this winter.
Droplet Find May Aid Ice Prevention, Wing Efficiency
Those who study hydrophobic materials — water-shedding surfaces such as those found in nature and created in the laboratory — are familiar with a theoretical limit on the time it takes for a water droplet to bounce away from such a surface. But MIT researchers have now found a way to burst through that perceived barrier, reducing the contact time by at least 40 percent.
Their finding is reported in a paper in the journal Nature co-authored by Kripa Varanasi, the Doherty Associate Professor of Mechanical Engineering at MIT, along with James Bird, a former MIT postdoc who is now an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at Boston Univ., former MIT postdoc Rajeev Dhiman and recent MIT PhD recipient Hyukmin Kwon.
Arctic Sea Ice is Sixth Lowest, But Better than 2012
The amount of ice in the Arctic Ocean shrank this summer to the sixth lowest level, but that’s much higher than last year’s record low.
The ice cap at the North Pole melts in the summer and grows in winter; its general shrinking trend is a sign of global warming. The National Snow and Ice Data Center says that Arctic ice was at 1.97 million square miles when it stopped melting late last week.
Burning Ice Makes Potable Water from Oil, Gas Production
In the midst of an intensifying global water crisis, scientists are reporting development of a more economical way to use one form of the “ice that burns” to turn very salty wastewater from fracking and other oil and gas production methods into water for drinking and irrigation. The study on the method, which removes more than 90 percent of the salt, appears in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.
The intensity of the jets of water ice and organic particles that shoot out from Saturn’s moon Enceladus depends on the moon’s proximity to the ringed planet, according to data obtained by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft.
The finding adds to evidence that a liquid water reservoir or ocean lurks under the icy surface of the moon. This is the first clear observation the bright plume emanating from Enceladus’ south pole varies predictably. The findings are detailed in a scientific paper in this week’s edition of Nature.
Supraglacial lakes – bodies of water that collect on the surface of an ice sheet – lubricate the bottom of the sheet when they drain, causing it to flow faster. Differences in how the lakes drain can impact glacial movement’s speed and direction, researchers from The City College of New York (CCNY), Univ. of Cambridge and Los Alamos National Laboratory report in Environmental Research Letters.
"Knowledge of the draining mechanisms allows us to improve our understanding of how surface melting can impact sea-level rise, not only through the direct contribution of meltwater from the surface, but also through the indirect contribution on the mass loss through ice dynamics," says Marco Tedesco, the principal investigator and lead author.
Climate model projections show that the Arctic Ocean will be completely ice-free by the summer by 2060. However, the record lows in sea ice extent of 2007 and 2012 demonstrated that these projections were too optimistic and some scientists think that we might see an ice free Arctic within this, or the next, decade. This momentous transformation will undoubtedly have important consequences for our climate, but opinions to the extent of the severity of this change vary.
In order to put in place timely and effective remedial action however, it is clear that we need to have the tools at hand to accurately monitor and assess exactly what is happening.
In a development that will help predict potential sea level rise from the Antarctic ice sheet, scientists from The Univ. of Texas at Austin’s Institute for Geophysics have used an innovation in radar analysis to accurately image the vast subglacial water system under West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier. They have detected a swamp-like canal system beneath the ice that is several times as large as Florida’s Everglades.
The findings, as described this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, use new observational techniques to address long-standing questions about subglacial water under Thwaites, a Florida-sized outlet glacier in the Amundsen Sea Embayment considered a key factor in projections of global sea level rise. On its own, Thwaites contains enough fresh water to raise oceans by about a meter, and it is a critical gateway to the majority of West Antarctica’s potential sea level contribution of about five meters.
Anchor ice is defined by the World Meteorological Organization as “submerged ice attached or anchored to the bottom, irrespective of the nature of its formation.” It may also be called bottom-fast ice.
This image shows anchor ice formations on the sea floor under the sea ice at Cape Armitage off of Ross Island in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica.
Improved satellite measurements and computer simulations of ice sheets are creating a more accurate picture of the current and future rise in global sea level, according to an international team of climate experts including Slawek Tulaczyk, a professor of Earth and planetary sciences at UC Santa Cruz.
The team’s study, published in today’s issue of Nature, found that Antarctic ice loss might be only half of what has previously been reported. But the researchers also confirmed a major loss of mass from the Greenland Ice Sheet, calculated to be twice as large as the Antarctic contribution to global sea-level rise.