Blowing snow crosses ice

Fog hovering above white ocean

Entranced by harsh beauty

A view of the land from across the sea ice in Antarctica.
A view of Ross Island from across the sea ice near McMurdo Station, Antarctica

Welcome to poetry Friday! I encourage you to sit outside for a moment and write a few lines. I chose to write haiku, a Japanese style of poetry often written in 5/7/5 syllables with a focus on images of nature. If you feel like it share your poem below.

I woke up this morning thinking about ice again. I love the way it looks, this sea of white with mysteries underneath. Yesterday as I stepped on the ice, walked on it, kneeled on it, and even tasted it I felt very connected to this ice. I wish I could bring you here with me so we could share this unique experience together.

Amy Osborne eating a small sliver of sea ice.
Amy Osborne tasting sea ice just off of Ross Island near McMurdo Station, Antarctica. There's still some salt in this sea ice! Photo by Denise Hardoy

Ice and cold have been helpful to humans over time. It keeps our food fresh, our drinks cold, and even helps us when we are injured.

You might be asking yourself, how can ice in the sea that is thousands of miles away help me? Take a moment and think, how do you think ice at the poles impacts you?

Here are a couple ways that the ice at the poles affects YOU:

ICE AND CLIMATE

Ice on our planet is extremely important in helping maintain the temperature and climate to which we are accustomed and adapted to live.

Ice keeps our planet at a livable temperature for you, for me, and for the animals and plants, including those we eat, that call the land and the ocean home.

Because it's white, ice reflects solar energy, also known as solar radiation, back into space rather than absorbing it. This means ice has a high albedo. Albedo means a surface's ability to reflect solar energy back into space. The higher the albedo the more energy that is reflected and not absorbed.

When sun's energy is absorbed it results in an increase in temperature. Think about going outside on a hot day. If you are wearing a white shirt, that can reflect the sun's energy, you will probably stay cooler than if you are wearing a dark colored shirt that will absorb the sun's energy. Surfaces are also this way. Darker pavement is usually hotter than lighter colored pavement because the darker pavement absorb's more of the sun's energy and the lighter pavement has a higher albedo meaning it reflects the sun's energy.

Drawn diagram of an example of albedo
Amy Osborne's drawn diagram showing what albedo is and how it affects the absorption of the sun's energy.

As ice is lost and the darker ocean or land is exposed, which will absorb more of the sun's energy, then temperatures rise. This increase in temperature happens globally not just at the poles. As temperatures rise, less ice will form, exposing more of the darker ocean and land and even more of the sun's energy is absorbed and temperatures will continue to rise! Whew what a vicious cycle that one is!

2019 was a remarkable year as far as sea ice in Antarctica. Generally, sea ice in Antarctica has been increasing, unlike the Arctic where sea ice is decreasing. That said, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), while Antarctica didn't reach a record low in sea ice, it did set a record for the lowest sea ice extent for February 2019. Sea ice extent means areas with at least 15% sea ice. Overall, sea ice around the globe is decreasing.

Graph showing ice increasing in Antarctica, decreasing in the Arctic and overall decreasing globally.
From climate.gov:A graph showing overall trends in polar sea ice from 1979 to 2013 as measured by satellites. The Arctic, on the top line, is decreasing. The Antarctic, is increasing, and the third line shows the global total is decreasing. At the bottom there is another visual showing the overall trend of decreasing ice month to month year to year. Graphs by Josh Stevens, NASA Earth Observatory. Courtesy of NASA

At McMurdo Station the formation of the sea ice is an integral part of studying the animals that live on and under the ice. From the Weddell seals, which I mentioned a couple of days ago, to the incredible project I'm a part of studying sea spiders and nudibranchs, these researchers depend on the annual formation of the sea ice to do their work.

Divers under the sea ice
Dr. Art Woods (left) and Dr. Amy Moran return from sea spider collection. Turtle Rock, Antarctica. Photo by Timothy R. Dwyer (PolarTREC 2016), Courtesy of ARCUS

ICE AND OCEAN CURRENTS

Sea ice affects the movement of ocean water. When sea ice forms, the salt doesn't freeze with it. Instead, the salt trickles down and is pushed into the cold water just below the ice. As the salt in the water just below the ice increases, the density of that water also increases. This means this dense salty water now sinks and moves towards the equator as it is replaced by warmer water traveling from the equator. As I mentioned in a previous post, this movement of ocean water is part of the global ocean conveyor belt, which is another important part of maintaining the current climate in If the amount of sea ice changes then this circulation of ocean water will also change. This, in turn, will also affect the climate of the globe.

How do you think the impact of this change in ocean circulation might affect the animals that call the ocean home? The research team I'm a part of is focused on studying changes in ocean temperatures on the development of marine ectotherms and I'm excited to say that tomorrow I'll be heading out on the ice with the divers! I won't actually be diving but I will be there supporting them.

Loading bags on top of a pisten bully, a big red track vehicle.
Graham Lobert and Aaron Toh, both part of the research team, load survival bags on top of the Pisten Bully. We will need these in case we run into trouble traveling across the ice tomorrow.

Two large red bags used for surviving in case we are stuck on the ice, are strapped down on top of the Pisten Bully.
Graham Lobert, a member of the research team, finishes strapping down the survival bags. These bags include a tent, a bivy sack, a stove, food, fuel, a cooking pot, a book, a deck of cards.

THE FINAL TRAININGS

Today was my final day of trainings. I learned about riding and repairing snow machines. I passed a light truck driving test. (NEVER PUT ON THE PARKING BREAK IN A COLD COLD PLACE! Instead we use hydraulic breaks.) My final training was a GPS course so I know how to find my way around.

Amy and Denise on a Ski Doo
Denise Hardoy and Amy Osborne learn the basics during snowmobile training. Photo by Katherine Ponganis

Looking under the hood of a Ski Doo
Tony Buchanan teaches us how to fix the snowmobile if it's not running.

Amy Osborne in a pick up truck with the United States Antarctica program logo on the side.
Amy Osborne taking her light vehicle driving training. Never ever ever put on the parking brake. Photo by Graham Lobert.

GPS training by walking through McMurdo town.
Learning to use a gps system to navigate through McMurdo. We may need this on the ice.

Well, I better get some sleep! I need to be ready to go and at the dive lockers with my lunch and my Extreme Cold Weather gear at 8am. I'm so excited to finally be joining the research team on the ice!

Amy Osborne jumping on the sea ice
Amy Osborne, excited to join the dive team tomorrow, jumping on the sea ice near Ross Island. Photo taken by Dave Meyer

Author
Date
Coordinates
77° 50' 46" S , 166° 40' 34" E
Location
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Weather Summary
cold, partly cloudy
Temperature
-11°C/12°F
Wind Speed
13 knots
Wind Chill
-20C/-4°F
Add Comment

Comments

Addie, Evie & Rowan (not verified)

Exotic palm tree,
Lovely tree tough yet tender,
Swaying in the breeze

Amy Osborne

Wow! I love this haiku. I can totally picture it. I'm glad you liked the video from the previous post. I'm trying to create a video from my day today when I finally got to go with the research team to the dive hut! I still need to find out the answer to your questions about the highs and lows in Antarctica!!

Lori azbill (not verified)

Wow Amy, you are learning so many things! You are already having such unique experiences. Great job documenting them. J and K, mike and I all send love and warm hugs.

Amy Osborne

Awww...thanks Lori! Today the divers went down into the icy sea. I kept thinking about how the girls would love to meet these real life octonauts!!!

Scott (not verified)

Water turns to ice
I really hope this water
Stays water for me

Diving under ice.
I would probably become
A big Popsicle

Way too much to see
But how could I really see
With eyes frozen shut

Amy Osborne

I love this poem! I have to share it with the dive team who I just watched dive through an icy hole today. Thanks for this!

Steve (not verified)

Over time... and ice.
Life is constantly moving.
Are there ice fossils?

Amy Osborne

I love this poem. Thanks for sharing this! Ice fossils. I'll have to ask the divers.

Reesha Katcher (not verified)

Green figs on a branch
Warm light, I smell smoky haze
What does Amy smell?

Amy Osborne

Thanks for sharing this Reesha. I love this haiku! It turns out that there's a clipboard in the hallway near the Galley that is titled "What do you smell in your department?" I'll take a look at it and report back and let you know what I've been smelling. I've heard about all of the smoke and fires in California. I'm so sorry you all are going through that again this year.

Take care,
Amy