Tag: ice

Scientists Discover Massive Ice Sheets On Mars

Scientists have discovered large sections of underlying water ice on Mars, opening new possibilities for future exploration of the planet.

On Friday’s issue of journal Science, a team of researchers led by U.S. Geological Survey planet geologist Colin Dundas have presented eight Martian regions where erosion has occurred.

Using HiRise, a powerful camera installed on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, the scientists have found thick ice sheets at the red planet’s mid-latitudes.

The large deposits of water ice are believed to be buried a meter or two below the surface at unexpectedly low latitudes and extend up to 100 meters tall.




What’s more, the deposits found appear to be made of pure ice.

Moreover, researchers believe it’s possible that the layers of subterranean ice could be holding a record of Mars’ past climate.

More importantly, the large deposits of ice could potentially be a huge source of water for future human exploration of the red planet.

A few years ago, the Mars Reconnaissance beamed back data and high-resolution images showing a pale sliver of blue among the red dust covering the planet.

Upon looking at the images, Dundas and his team discovered eight steep cliffs of what appears to be pure ice.

This kind of ice is more widespread than previously thought,” Dundas said.

This is not the first time that ice was found on Mars. It’s long been known that ice covers the poles, and MRO’s radar instruments have detected signs of thick, buried ice across the red planet’s belly.

Some researchers suspect that these ice deposits are remnants of glaciers that existed millions of years ago when Mars’ spin axis and orbit were different.

The main difference is that back then, scientists have no way of determining the ice’s depth and properties.

Now that scientists have more leads as to the properties of the ice found underneath the planet’s surface, future Mars explorers will have more to go on as soon as they are able to land on it.

Since large reserves can be found a meter or two beneath the planet’s surface, it could be easier for human explorers to mine the ice content and then use it to support further missions.

Once humans are able to use Mars’ large reserves of water ice for drinking, for growing crops, and for generating fuel, the idea of a sustainable human base doesn’t seem too far-fetched.

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Pass it on: New Scientist

This City In Alaska Is Warming So Fast, Algorithms Removed The Data Because It Seemed Unreal

Last week, scientists were pulling together the latest data for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s monthly report on the climate when they noticed something strange: One of their key climate monitoring stations had fallen off the map.

All of the data for Barrow, Alaska — the northernmost city in the United States — was missing.

No, Barrow hadn’t literally been vanquished by the pounding waves of the Arctic Sea (although it does sit precipitously close).




The missing station was just the result of rapid, man-made climate change, with a runaway effect on the Arctic.

The temperature in Barrow had been warming so fast this year, the data was automatically flagged as unreal and removed from the climate database.

It was done by algorithms that were put in place to ensure that only the best data gets included in NOAA’s reports.

They’re handy to keep the data sets clean, but this kind of quality-control algorithm is good only in “average” situations, with no outliers. The situation in Barrow, however, is anything but average.

If climate change is a fiery coal-mine disaster, then Barrow is our canary. The Arctic is warming faster than any other place on Earth, and Barrow is in the thick of it.

With less and less sea ice to reflect sunlight, the temperature around the North Pole is speeding upward.

The missing data obviously confused meteorologists and researchers, since it’s a record they’ve been watching closely, according to Deke Arndt, the chief of NOAA’s Climate Monitoring Branch.

He described it as “an ironic exclamation point to swift regional climate change in and near the Arctic.

Just this week, scientists reported that the Arctic had its second-warmest year — behind 2016 — with the lowest sea ice ever recorded.

The announcement came at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union, and the report is topped with an alarming headline: “Arctic shows no sign of returning to reliably frozen region of recent past decades.

Changes in the Arctic extend beyond sea ice. Vast expanses of former permafrost have been reduced to mud. Nonnative species of plants, types that grow only in warmer climates, are spreading into what used to be the tundra.

Nowhere is this greening of the Arctic happening faster than the North Slope of Alaska, observable with high-resolution clarity on NOAA satellite imagery.

The current observed rate of sea ice decline and warming temperatures are higher than at any other time in the last 1,500 years, and likely longer than that,” the NOAA report says.

At no place is this more blatantly obvious than Barrow itself, which recently changed its name to the traditional native Alaskan name Utqiagvik.

In just the 17 years since 2000, the average October temperature in Barrow has climbed 7.8 degrees. The November temperature is up 6.9 degrees.

The December average has warmed 4.7 degrees. No wonder the data was flagged.

The Barrow temperatures are now safely back in the climate-monitoring data sets. Statisticians will have to come up with a new algorithm to prevent legitimate temperatures from being removed in the future.

New algorithms for a new normal.

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Pass it on: Popular Science

3D-Printed Chains of Ice And The Robot-Assisted Igloos Of The Future

A small but dedicated team led by Pieter Sijpkes and Jorge Angeles has been spear-heading the experimental use of ice at the university.

Creating everything from 3D-printed chains to what they describe as “commercial and industrial part modeling” used in fabrication, including full-scale construction tests for “the ice-tourism industry.”

For instance,” they explain, “small-scale ice models represent economical alternatives to intricate 3D models of architectural objects, be they scale models of buildings, site models, or building details.




Why prototype in plastic, in other words, when you can simply use the renewable, re-meltable, and re-freezable resource of freshwater?

Awesomely, like something out of the X-Men, Sijpkes and Angeles add that “casting techniques are being investigated in order to produce high-quality metal copies from ice originals.”

Here’s how the printing is done:

The idea is that you deposit a very thin bead of water onto your build surface is the same way that would extrude plastic.”

“Once a layer has been laid down there would be a delay of a few minutes while it freezes in the cold build chamber.”

“Once frozen, the next layer is deposited and the process repeats. By keeping the beads of water only a few millimeters in size surface tension alone should be enough to keep them in place.”

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Pass it on: Popular Science

An Area Of Antarctica Larger Than Texas Partially Melted Last Year

Scientists think strong El Niños, like the one that melted so much surface ice in Antarctica last year, will become more common in the future.

An area of Antarctica larger than Texas partially melted last year, a group of international researchers has found.

And while it’s pretty well known ice at both poles has been melting for a while now, this ice is a bit different. In this case, it was surface ice the scientists were monitoring, not sea ice.

The melting was likely caused by a strong El Niño, something scientists expect will become more common as the climate continues to warm.

Normally, strong westerly winds keep El Niño’s warm weather away from the continent, so the melt that it causes isn’t as bad. But one member of the research team said El Niños seem to be winning the “tug of war” between westerly winds and warmer air.

And combining more frequent air driven warming from above and ocean driven melting from below could spell bad news for those living on the coast. The West Antarctic ice sheet has the potential to raise the sea level by over 10 feet if it were to collapse or fracture.

This time the melting didn’t do any permanent damage. But the scientists are worried it could be a sign of things to come.

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Pass it on: Popular Science