Nansen’s Memorial lecture

This is probably the first – and last – time I give a lecture in a long dress and high heels! Every year, on Fritjof Nansen’s birthday, the Norwegian Science Academy invites its members (and a few others) to “Nansen’s memorial lecture”. The title of this year’s lecture was “From cold to warm – Norwegian Oceanographic Research in the Weddell Sea” – and the presenter was me!

When preparing for the talk I learnt a lot about the first Antarctic research expeditions and the history of oceanography in Bergen, and I had the pleasure to have Arne Foldvik tell me his stories from the “old days” down south – I’ll try to share some of those with you here later, but first some photos from the festive evening in Oslo!

What melts first – ice in fresh water or ice in salt water? Most of the professors guessed wrong – if you don’t know the answer, then read earlier blogpost! (Photo: Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi/Thomas B. Eckhoff)
Explaining the origin of Antarctic Bottom Water to the Norwegian Science Academy in Oslo. Fritjof Nansen is the man on the painting just behind me! (Photo: Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi/Thomas B. Eckhoff)
Everyone giving the Nansen memorial lecture gets the Nansen Medal. I’m the 55th lecturer to receive one – but only the forth woman. (Photo: Det Norske Videnskaps-Akademi/Thomas B. Eckhoff)

The presentation was followed by a very fancy dinner!

Arne Foldvik telling stories about expensive Champagne on long Antarctic cruises
Peter M. Haugan giving the “thank-you-for-the-meal-speach”.

 

Sometimes you have to see it to believe it — or to wanting to be able calculate it. Planetary Rossby waves in a tank!

In the image above, we see planetary Rossby waves. They are propagating along the slope with shallow water to the right. But why? This is the kind of thing one might learn in GEOF213: “Dynamics of Ocean and Atmosphere”. This is theoretical subject, with equations filling the blackboard in most of the classes. To make it more fun, to help understanding of mechanisms and to motivate why a little theory really can’t be avoided, Elin and I (Mirjam) set up a couple of experiments over the last couple of weeks. Some working better than others, but that was to be expected…

But one that worked super well are planetary Rossby waves. We use a square tank with a sloping bottom which is spun up to solid body rotation. Then, a colored ice cube is placed in the shallow eastern corner of the tank. As it starts melting, a column of melt water forms below it. Because the melt water column is being stretched as it is sinking, it starts spinning. Once it reaches the sloping bottom, it is stretched even further. In order to conserve potential vorticity, it moves back up the slope again, starting to form a Rossby wave which then propagates westward.

Below you see an experiment both from the top (upper left corner) and the side.

What I find super cool is that the ice cube, sitting on top of its rotating Taylor column, spins in the same direction as the tank, but even faster than the tank itself! Physics says it has to, of course, but this is the kind of counterintuitive stuff that is just really nice to directly observe.

Here is another experiment, shown in real time.

Fresh water or salt water?

Today we are doing the melting ice cubes experiment in fancy glasses, because Elin is giving a fancy lecture tonight: The Nansen Memorial Lectureof the Norwegian Science Academy in Oslo! Cheers!

We each had green ice cubes in our glasses, but one of our glasses contained fresh water and the other one salt water, both at room temperature. Can you figure out who got which glass?

This time lapse might give you a clue…

To read more about this experiment, check out this blog post!

Attachments

Passion for Ocean 2019

I wonder if the cashier reacted to my somewhat strange shopping list last Saturday morning: 1 kg of salt, three kilos of ice and a bottle of food coloring. Had he asked, I’d gladly have told him that I was on my way to “Passion for ocean”, a festival showing off everything that Bergen has to offer that’s related to the ocean; food, music, fishes, starfish, aquariums, organizations, activities, kayaks, boats – and off course research and science!

Nadine and I joined up with Ingunn Skelvan and students from GFI in the Bjerknes Centre tent to set up our demonstrations – it was quite a challenge in the strong wind!

 

Ingunn showed to anyone interested how blowing (CO2) into seawater lowers the pH (which causes the pH-indicator in the water to change color). When the pH in the ocean decreases it is more difficult for organisms in the water to build their shells.

What balloon will explode first when hold over an open flame? The one filled with water or the one filled with air?

Since the heat capacity of water is much higher than that of air, the water balloon will not get nearly as warm as the air balloon (and hence not explode). That’s also why the water in the lake doesn’t heat up as quickly as the air when the sun is out – and why the majority of the heat that the earth is accumulating due to our emissions of CO2 is stored in the ocean.

 

Nadine had a more difficult question for the visitors: If you put an ice cube in a glass of sea water and one in a glass of sea water – which one will melt first? Do you know? You can try at home – or visit  Mirjam’s blog to find  out!

Ladies of the ring – Art and science

Imagine yourself wandering around a lake on an early autumn morning, where the mist forms a silky layer over the calm water surface. You watch the fog and wonder how it can create such a mystic mood. A light breeze comes up and the fog starts dancing on the water surface. You like this dance and start blowing more air over the surface to create turbulence. The mist in front of you suddenly wakes up and performs a beautiful dance in the wind over the water.

As part of my PhD program, I – Nadine – recently participated in the summer school FDSE at École Polytechnique in Paris. During those very intense and instructive two weeks of fluid dynamics from atmospheric dynamics to oceanography, glaciology and renewable energy, we also had a short project on quite an unusual topic: Arts! Organized by LadHyX (LadHyX), we dived into the world of arts, where the interplay of water, mist and air inspired our creativity and the perception of reality. Within little time, we made this movie of the shadow of mist dancing over water.

 

Icebergs for children – and everyone else!

I stumbled over this masterpiece on twitter and I thought I’d share it with you: a book for children explaining the origin and fate of an Antarctic iceberg! Illustraed by amazing pieces of art, nicely told, scientifically correct and on top of all freely available at https://joidesresolution.org/activities/iceberg-of-antarctica-book/ !

The author/artist Marlo Gansworthy joined a Polarstern cruise to the iceberg alley a few years back – and now we can all enjoy the result! Download and be amazed together with your children (or on your own!) . You can read her blog from the expedition and find more of her art here!

 

Antarctic podcast in the making!

What’s the role of Antarctica in the global climate system? Why is the ice melting? Where did you go? – and why? What ship where you on? What did you eat for breakfast?

There were many questions,(and hopefully just as many answers) when Nadine and I was invited by Ellen and Ingjald to “Media City Bergen” where we were to make a podcast about life and science onboard an icebreaker in Antarctica. The studio turned out to be the smallest room (without a toilet) that I’d ever been into – but we managed to squeeze in all four of us!

The program will be ready after the summer so stay tuned! And meanwhile, you can listen to previous podcasts from the Bjerknes centre (in Norwegian only for now) and learn about why climate scientists collect pollen (Anne Bjune) to how we can use ocean temperatures to predict cod abundance in Norwegian water (Marius Årthun) – and much more!

Podcast in the making! Photo: Ellen Viste

 

Ellen Viste preparing to question us about everything from deep water to formation to what you eat for breakfast on a Korean ice breaker. Photo: E. Darelius

EastGRIPninja’s scientific adventures – a comic book about an expedition to Greenland!

Our friend and paleo climate researcher Petra Langebroek is currently on a scientific expedition to central Greenland, and she reports back using EastGRIPninja and his scientist friends to tell the story of how science is done on top of the ice sheet.

For example, EastGRIPninja gets a tour of the camp:

And that’s pretty cool — it’s not too often that I get a look into one of the domes! I don’t know what I expected to see inside, but definitely not this much plywood. And probably fewer flags, too. And (spoiler alert!) would you have guessed that they have a tabletop football game in there, too?

Also super interesting: How does going to the toilet work in the middle of the Greenland ice sheet? That’s something EastGRIPninja needs to find out fairly early on, too. So if you are curious, you should go and check it out!

Click on the image below to read the whole story (which is being updated pretty much daily!). EastGRIPninja, Petra and their team are still there until mid July and I can’t wait to learn more about their adventures!