The strongest and earliest evidence of climate change (and previous climate change via ice cores) is forecast to occur in the polar regions of the planet. Polar surface are simulated in two large shipping container style cold rooms on a concrete stand. Each container has a different role.
Sea-ice has a strong modern climatic role in cooling the planet via the ice-albedo feedback. Small amounts of soot/black carbon (nanogram per gram of ice) allow ice to absorb solar radiation and melt. The optics of natural sea-ice are little understood let alone anthropogenically forced sea-ice, mainly owing to the logistical costs (danger and money) in studying sea-ice.
The effect of soot on snow and sea-ice has been listed in the latest IPCC climate change report as an important and little understood driver for modern climate change.
Sea-ice can be made fairly easily and safely in cold rooms. Large tanks of synthetic sea-salt are maintained at around 0°C and the air in the chamber cooled to lower temperatures. This produces a realistic sea-ice complete with brine channels and the correct depth structure to study the optics (albedo/ transmission/ energy uptake) of abiotic and biotic sea-ice.
The Sea Ice Simulator uses the following techniques to analyse the optical properties of sea-ice:
- Nadir reflectance spectroscopy
- Multiple depth spectroscopy
- Long-path spectroscopy