Earth: The Power of the Planet episode 3 – Ice : Documentary series in which Dr Iain Stewart reveals the natural forces that have shaped the earth’s development. Ice isn’t just something to put in a gin and tonic – it has carved out landscapes, unleashed catastrophes and shaped human evolution.
Now it could cause the destruction of our civilisation. Iain visits the Jakobshavn glacier in Greenland which has retreated 10km in the last few years because of global warming.
Earth: The Power of the Planet episode 3 – Ice
Ice is water frozen into a solid state. Depending on the presence of impurities such as particles of soil or bubbles of air, it can appear transparent or a more or less opaque bluish-white color.
In the Solar System, ice is abundant and occurs naturally from as close to the Sun as Mercury to as far away as the Oort cloud objects. Beyond the Solar System, it occurs as interstellar ice. It is abundant on Earth’s surface – particularly in the polar regions and above the snow line – and, as a common form of precipitation and deposition, plays a key role in Earth’s water cycle and climate. It falls as snowflakes and hail or occurs as frost, icicles or ice spikes and aggregates from snow as glaciers and ice sheets.
Ice exhibits at least eighteen phases (packing geometries), depending on temperature and pressure. When water is cooled rapidly (quenching), up to three types of amorphous ice can form depending on its history of pressure and temperature. When cooled slowly, correlated proton tunneling occurs below −253.15 °C (20 K, −423.67 °F) giving rise to macroscopic quantum phenomena. Virtually all ice on Earth’s surface and in its atmosphere is of a hexagonal crystalline structure denoted as ice Ih (spoken as “ice one h”) with minute traces of cubic ice, denoted as ice Ic and, more recently found, Ice VII inclusions in diamonds. The most common phase transition to ice Ih occurs when liquid water is cooled below 0 °C (273.15 K, 32 °F) at standard atmospheric pressure. It may also be deposited directly by water vapor, as happens in the formation of frost. The transition from ice to water is melting and from ice directly to water vapor is sublimation.
Ice is used in a variety of ways, including for cooling, for winter sports, and ice sculpting.
Jakobshavn Glacier, also known as Ilulissat Glacier, is a large outlet glacier in West Greenland. It is located near the Greenlandic town of Ilulissat (colonial name in Danish: Jakobshavn) and ends at the sea in the Ilulissat Icefjord.
Jakobshavn Glacier drains 6.5% of the Greenland ice sheet and produces around 10% of all Greenland icebergs. Some 35 billion tonnes of icebergs calve off and pass out of the fjord every year. Icebergs breaking from the glacier are often so large (up to 1 km in height) that they are too tall to float down the fjord and lie stuck on the bottom of its shallower areas, sometimes for years, until they are broken up by the force of the glacier and icebergs further up the fjord. Studied for over 250 years, the Jakobshavn Glacier has helped develop modern understanding of climate change and icecap glaciology.
Ilulissat Icefjord (Greenlandic: Ilulissat Kangerlua) was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004, in part because of the importance of the Jakobshavn Glacier in contributing to the current scientific understanding of anthropogenic climate change.