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!

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

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

Im Focus: Fizzy soda water could be key to clean manufacture of flat wonder material: Graphene

Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.

As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...

Im Focus: Exotic quantum states made from light: Physicists create optical “wells” for a super-photon

Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.

Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...

Im Focus: Circular RNA linked to brain function

For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.

While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...

Im Focus: RAVAN CubeSat measures Earth's outgoing energy

An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.

The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...

Im Focus: Scientists shine new light on the “other high temperature superconductor”

A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Call for Papers – ICNFT 2018, 5th International Conference on New Forming Technology

16.08.2017 | Event News

Sustainability is the business model of tomorrow

04.08.2017 | Event News

Clash of Realities 2017: Registration now open. International Conference at TH Köln

26.07.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Cholesterol-lowering drugs may fight infectious disease

22.08.2017 | Health and Medicine

Meter-sized single-crystal graphene growth becomes possible

22.08.2017 | Materials Sciences

Repairing damaged hearts with self-healing heart cells

22.08.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>