Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Solving the problem of sea ice thickness distribution using molecular concepts

18.09.2015

Yale University scientists have answered a 40-year-old question about Arctic ice thickness by treating the ice floes of the frozen seas like colliding molecules in a fluid or gas.

Although today's highly precise satellites do a fine job of measuring the area of sea ice, measuring the volume has always been a tricky business.


Arctic ice, in 1957, is shown.

Credit: Norbert Untersteiner

The volume is reflected through the distribution of sea ice thickness -- which is subject to a number of complex processes, such as growth, melting, ridging, rafting, and the formation of open water.

For decades, scientists have been guided by a 1975 theory (by Thorndike et al.) that could not be completely tested, due to the unwieldy nature of sea ice thickness distribution.

The theory relied upon an intransigent term -- one that could not be related to the others -- to represent the mechanical redistribution of ice thickness. As a result, the complete theory could not be mathematically tested.

Enter Yale professor John Wettlaufer, inspired by the staff and students at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Summer Study Program at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, in Massachusetts.

Over the course of the summer, Wettlaufer and Yale graduate student Srikanth Toppaladoddi developed and articulated a new way of thinking about the space-time evolution of sea ice thickness.

The resulting paper appears in the Sept. 17 edition of the journal Physical Review Letters.

"The Arctic is a bellwether of the global climate, which is our focus. What we have done in our paper is to translate concepts used in the microscopic world into terms appropriate to this problem essential to climate," said Wettlaufer, who is the A.M. Bateman Professor of Geophysics, Mathematics and Physics at Yale.

Wettlaufer and co-author Toppaladoddi recast the old theory into an equation similar to a Fokker-Planck equation, a partial differential equation used in statistical mechanics to predict the probability of finding microscopic particles in a given position under the influence of random forces. By doing this, the equation could capture the dynamic and thermodynamic forces at work within polar sea ice.

"We transformed the intransigent term into something tractable and -- poof -- solved it," Wettlaufer said.

The researchers said their equation opens up the study of this aspect of climate science to a variety of methods normally used in nonequilibrium statistical mechanics.

Media Contact

Jim Shelton
james.shelton@yale.edu
203-432-3881

 @yale

http://www.yale.edu 

Jim Shelton | EurekAlert!

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht New Study Will Help Find the Best Locations for Thermal Power Stations in Iceland
19.01.2017 | University of Gothenburg

nachricht Water - as the underlying driver of the Earth’s carbon cycle
17.01.2017 | Max-Planck-Institut für Biogeochemie

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Traffic jam in empty space

New success for Konstanz physicists in studying the quantum vacuum

An important step towards a completely new experimental access to quantum physics has been made at University of Konstanz. The team of scientists headed by...

Im Focus: How gut bacteria can make us ill

HZI researchers decipher infection mechanisms of Yersinia and immune responses of the host

Yersiniae cause severe intestinal infections. Studies using Yersinia pseudotuberculosis as a model organism aim to elucidate the infection mechanisms of these...

Im Focus: Interfacial Superconductivity: Magnetic and superconducting order revealed simultaneously

Researchers from the University of Hamburg in Germany, in collaboration with colleagues from the University of Aarhus in Denmark, have synthesized a new superconducting material by growing a few layers of an antiferromagnetic transition-metal chalcogenide on a bismuth-based topological insulator, both being non-superconducting materials.

While superconductivity and magnetism are generally believed to be mutually exclusive, surprisingly, in this new material, superconducting correlations...

Im Focus: Studying fundamental particles in materials

Laser-driving of semimetals allows creating novel quasiparticle states within condensed matter systems and switching between different states on ultrafast time scales

Studying properties of fundamental particles in condensed matter systems is a promising approach to quantum field theory. Quasiparticles offer the opportunity...

Im Focus: Designing Architecture with Solar Building Envelopes

Among the general public, solar thermal energy is currently associated with dark blue, rectangular collectors on building roofs. Technologies are needed for aesthetically high quality architecture which offer the architect more room for manoeuvre when it comes to low- and plus-energy buildings. With the “ArKol” project, researchers at Fraunhofer ISE together with partners are currently developing two façade collectors for solar thermal energy generation, which permit a high degree of design flexibility: a strip collector for opaque façade sections and a solar thermal blind for transparent sections. The current state of the two developments will be presented at the BAU 2017 trade fair.

As part of the “ArKol – development of architecturally highly integrated façade collectors with heat pipes” project, Fraunhofer ISE together with its partners...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Sustainable Water use in Agriculture in Eastern Europe and Central Asia

19.01.2017 | Event News

12V, 48V, high-voltage – trends in E/E automotive architecture

10.01.2017 | Event News

2nd Conference on Non-Textual Information on 10 and 11 May 2017 in Hannover

09.01.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Helmholtz International Fellow Award for Sarah Amalia Teichmann

20.01.2017 | Awards Funding

An innovative high-performance material: biofibers made from green lacewing silk

20.01.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ion treatments for cardiac arrhythmia — Non-invasive alternative to catheter-based surgery

20.01.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>