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22 June, 2000

No Rime Nor Reason

The media flew out this afternoon. Their arrival and presence put Camp Summit in total chaos. It's interesting how you can get out of routine so easily but by afternoon, it was back to normal again.

Since my arrival, my favorite time of day is after 8:00 pm. What makes it so special is the way the light from the sun hits the surface o f the Earth. Although we have 24 hours of daylight it is between the hours of 8:00 am and 4:00 pm that the Sun it at its highest point in the sky. Actually, it reaches maximum along the horizon at 12:20 pm each day and its minimum at 12:20 am. As it wanes in the evening, t he angle of the sun's rays cast a reddish hue on everything. It is s unreal. The shadows are long and every parcticle on the pure white snow is expressed in brilliant detail. I usually take a walk, run or ski during this time just to get away from the Camp. I have never heard such quiet before. I can actually hear the blood rushing in my ears and my heart pounding from the exercise. It was on one of these walks that I noticed something very unique to this area. I am referring to rime.

Rime is a crystal formation that occurs, from my observations, on ver y cold objects. From talking to the scientists in Camp, it is caused from the moisture brought to the area in ice fog. Because the super cooled water molecules land on a cold surface, they form feather-like crystals on the coldest surfaces. Referring to the phases of water, rime forms when water vapor moves from gas to a solid in a process known as deposition. The liquid phase is completely eliminated because temperatures here are too cold. On the reverse side, in order for the gas to get into the air here in Greenland, it travels from a solid phase to a gas phase in a process known as sublimation. This completely eliminates evaporation (liquid to solid). Anyway, when light h its the rime crystals during the evening, they appear to glow in a supernatural way.

I have decided to take a closer look at rime and designed a simple experiment to make observations and define characteristics of its formation, chemical composition (thanks to Matt Arsenault from University of New Hampshire), and compare it to my weather observations. Because of the way it forms, it brings from the atmosphere to the Earth, many compounds that could effect the interaction between the snow-air boundary which is the focus of the research at Summit this summer.

Experimental Design: Take two pieces of Teflon coated boards (1m x 2 0 cm). Stick in clean snow. Every morning take measurements of growth, samples (for chemical analysis) and weather observations. Record observations for two weeks (that's when we have to take down our science experiments) then analyze the results. I will have to wait until we return to the US to get the chemical analysis since the sample w ill be so small that our equipment here cannot process it.

As simple as this experiment sounds, it may add to the scientific knowledge base and if not, at least I will have fun doing it. Simple is not always bad-KISS-Keep it simple stupid!!

Ciao, Cathi

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