Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Yes, it's cold enough for them

Researchers need frigid temperatures

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THEY'RE practically doing cartwheels on the University of Manitoba campus and chanting "Colder! Colder! Colder!"

OK, maybe that's an exaggeration. But there's a small corner of the U of M campus where delighted scientists are going all kids-on-Christmas-morning over temperatures in the -30 Cs and wind chills in the -40 Cs.

They're working 24 hours a day at the Sea-ice Environmental Research Facility, a pond about the size of a volleyball court at which scientists have been replicating Arctic sea ice the past two years.

"From the ice point of view, we like cold," said Prof. Feiyue Wang, a lead scientist at SERF and a professor in the U of M's department of environment and geography, and department of chemistry. "We would expect very fast ice growth," Wang said Monday.

About 20 research associates and graduate students are part of the team studying and monitoring how fast and thick the ice grows during these otherwise abysmally cold conditions.

"We've got a lot of results already," said Wang. "We see how the sea ice grows.

"Typically, we get ice from late November to early March," but rarely this cold and for this long.

"People from Denmark and Germany are here working with us," Wang said.

A special treat is the growth of tiny flowers -- yes, flowers. "It's all like a fern," with a crystal-like appearance that grows on the surface when it dips below -20, he explained.

It's critical to the SERF studies that there be open ice, which occurs even in the Arctic at these temperatures, so the researchers cut holes in the ice, Wang said.

OK, so the deeper the freeze, the happier are the people in parka-covered lab coats. But don't you get cold?

"In the Arctic, you have an icebreaker nearby" when you're working on the sea ice, said Wang.

On the U of M campus, there's a heated trailer two minutes from the pond. "Before you lose your ears, you run back to the trailer and defrost," Wang said.

nick.martin@freepress.mb.ca

FIVE-DAY FORECAST:

Today

High: -22 C

Low: -29 C

 

Wednesday

High: -26 C

Low: -28 C

 

Thursday

High: -22 C

Low: -30 C

 

Friday

High: -23 C

Low: -27 C

 

Saturday

High: -13 C

Low: -16 C

It's a very cold day to start the week, with dangerous wind chills making it feel as cold as -45C in southern Manitoba Monday. The rest of the week looks equally as brutal. Once your frozen eyelashes thaw and you're able to actually open your eyes, enjoy these beautiful photos! And if you're viewing from outside of Winnipeg, we don't want to hear about it.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 22, 2013 B1

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