Earlier this month I had the pleasure of interviewing University of Rhode Island Professor Brice Loose for a Rhode Island Public Radio story about his research. Loose studies how ice influences “air-ice-ocean gas exchange,” to use his words. (Read the story and/or hear my NPR voice here). Loose and his collaborators are using a special lab for their research: the US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab (CRREL) in New Hampshire. In this lab, they grew ice on top of a giant pool and used a wind tunnel to recreate the seasons of the Arctic (in a sped up time frame). To model the seasons, the scientists had to break up the ice. This involved standing on the ice and using chainsaws to break it apart (see a great picture of this at the RIPR link). Loose said this part of the experiment was pretty fun, although several people have lost items in the pool in the course of their work. In fact, I talked to Loose on the CRREL lab phone for my interview as he had lost his cellphone in the pool.
Loose’s work is still in progress but could have important implications for understanding basic atmospheric science. It may also provide predictions for how the melting of the ice caps due to climate change will impact greenhouse gas accumulation.
Loose is also considering adding phytoplankton to his model system because they are known to influence air-ocean gas exchange (although keeping them alive in the lab’s conditions may be challenging).