Questions & Answers: Snow and Ice

The following are questions asked of ACMP scientists and the answers they provided. Click on the question at the top to jump to the answer below.

What do scientists do on the icebreakers? What are they studying?

The scientists are measuring under the ice. They are measuring whether the water is getting warmer or saltier under the ice in ways that might affect the ice or life under the ice. They are also making measurements on how much sunlight is reaching the water to warm the ocean and what types of pollution particles are in the Arctic Ocean. They are making some measurements in the air, but mostly they are measuring underneath the ice. - John Walsh

How long will it take for the ice to melt?

There are some scientists who think the ice in the Arctic Ocean will be gone in the summer time in about 30 years. However, it looks like it will still be cold and dark in the winter, so some ice will come back in the winter; but in the summer the ice will be gone completely by about 2040. Greenland is the different story because there the ice is so thick; most scientists think that it will take several hundred years and maybe a thousand years for all the ice in Greenland to melt. - John Walsh

How does dust affect the sea ice?

That's a good question and one that scientists don't have a complete answer for yet. Dust travels over the ice and lands on the ice in the spring. That changes how reflective the ice is and causes the ice to reflect less heat, which causes the ice to melt faster. - Cathy Cahill

Which villages does ALISON gather data from, how many years of data is there, and what are the trends that they show?

This past winter (2007-08), 19 sites were operated by teachers and students in schools around Alaska: Barrow, Wales, Nome, Huslia, Hughes, Fairbanks, Shaktolik, McGrath, Homer, Kenai, Sterling, Seward, Anchorage, Eagle River, Wasilia, Willow, Denali, North Pole, Delta Junction, and Mentasta. There are also several sites runs by organizations other than schools. Schools have been making measurements through ALISON since 2002. The Geophysical Institute has been taking measurements since 1999. In order to see trends or anything significant, we would need many more sources of data. We hope that over time we will be in a position to see trends.-  Martin Jeffries

Does the chemistry of the water cause ice thickness to vary?

The chemistry of the water does not affect ice thickness in any significant way. However, when you freeze water, the freezing process is a distillation or purification process. When the ice forms, impurities that exist in the water are ejected from the ice while it freezes, so the ice is always purer than the water from which it formed.-  Martin Jeffries

Are there differences in the snow and ice between Antarctica and the Arctic?

The studies we did in Antarctica were about sea ice. One reason for doing those studies was to learn whether Antarctic sea ice was like Arctic sea ice. There were some indications that Antarctic sea ice would be different. We found that yes; the ice is different in the two places. Antarctic sea ice does not grow as thick as the ice in the Arctic. One of the main reasons is that the weather and ocean is colder in the Arctic than in the Antarctic. - Martin Jeffries

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