Over the coming weeks Ms. Niccoli's first graders and Mr. Brad's preschoolers will be joining us on our science expedition in Antarctica. While we (a science team from various parts of the world) work in sub-freezing conditions and sleep on ice for several weeks on end, the students will be enjoying the adventure from their warm and cozy classrooms. Feel free to follow along on our adventure together.

Scroll down to the bottom of this page to read a little about our science team.

Satellite image of Antarctica, courtesy of NASA. The blue dot is McMurdo. The red dot is our field area on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Ice

People often ask me why I would want to study snow and ice. Isn't it just white and cold? Well, yes. It's mostly white and it's definitely cold. But I study ice because it impacts the way people all around the world live - from skiing to drinking water to dangerous avalanches to providing a record of past environments. The more we study ice, the more we understand just how important it is.

I also study ice because it's beautiful - from the smallest ice crystal to the vast expanse of the ice sheet itself. It's hard to describe just how beautiful ice can be.

In this post, I'll show you just a few pictures of the ice from Antarctica, though pictures really can't capture just how amazing Antarctica really is.

Ice Crystals
If you look really closely at these ice crystals, you can see that each one has six sides. Snow flakes are another six-sided ice crystal. Next time it snows in Utah, see if you can see the six sides.

Ice Caves
Caves form in the ice in some areas of Antarctica, and scientists are trying to figure out how and why they form. I never thought I would get to explore caves in Antarctica!

Pressure Ridges
The ice on either side of a long break or crack in the ice floating on the ocean can be pushed up ontop of each other creating what are called pressure ridges. The pressure ridges look like a long series of jagged peaks that stick up out of the relatively flat ice all around it. The two pictures and video below show some pressure ridges we saw while near the coast of Antarctica. They are some of my favorite features of Antarctic ice.

Ice Covered Mountains
Most of Antarctica is completely covered by ice. You can only see rock or ground in very few places. Below are three photos from near the coast of Antarctica, where you can see some of the mountain peaks and rocks poking up out of the ice.

The snow in Antarctica is so dry that it blows around and forms dunes, just like sand. Snow dunes are called sastrugi.

West Antarctic Ice Sheet
Most of Antarctica is covered by so much ice that you see nothing else anywhere around. It's like standing on a frozen ocean with no land anywhere in sight. The first two pictures below show what the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is like when standing on it; the last picture shows what it looks like when flying above it.

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