Scientists To Collect Data On Supercooled Water
Sandia National Laboratories researcher Darielle Dexheimer and her colleagues Erika Roesler and Joe Hardesty are using balloon-borne instruments to learn more about supercooled liquid water in the Arctic atmosphere...
Supercooled water sounds smooth enough to be served at espresso bars, but instead it hangs out in Earth’s atmosphere, unpredictably freezing on airplane wings and hampering the simulations of climate theorists.
To learn more about this unusual state of matter, Sandia National Laboratories atmospheric scientist Darielle Dexheimer and colleagues have organised an expedition to fly huge tethered balloons in Alaska this coming winter, where temperatures descend to 40 degrees below zero and it’s dark as a dungeon for all but a few hours of the day. “We’ll start in November and see how it goes,” said Dexheimer.
Photo Courtesy: Darielle Dexheimer
Ice pops from a balloon’s tether line as researcher Darielle Dexheimer gathers in an instrumented balloon at the Atmospheric Radiation Measurement research station at Oliktok Point, Alaska. The balloon is about 25 feet above Dexheimer’s head and the lines are completely iced over…
Supercooled liquid water is pure water that remains a liquid below its normal freezing point because it has nothing to nucleate around. The idea is to gain a large dataset about it, uncollected elsewhere, to fine-tune the accuracy of climate models and reduce the number of ice-delayed flights and crashes. The team collected data from tethered balloons in Alaska last year, but didn’t operate later than October.
The team will wrest more data about the presence and behaviour of supercooled liquid water where it is most plentiful and at a location most crucial to climate modelers: Oliktok Point at the tip of oilfields of Prudhoe Bay, one of the northernmost points of the United States.
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