Why did I melt 25 gallons of ice in my studio? by Ekaterina Smirnova

How long does it take to melt a chunk of ice (~3 lb / ~1.5 kg) at a room temperature (~73 F / ~23 C) ?
Make a guess... 3 days / 1 day / 12 hours / 6 hours / 1 hour / 5 min...

For the duration of the month of September I was mostly doing just that, melting ice. The answer to my question is – about 5 hours! Just 5 hours. Now, think of it in the global scale. How many chunks of snow this big can be found around the world and how much snow is being melted just during one day due to the increasing temperatures of global warming? There are of course many factors that come into a consideration when you are trying to get a scientific approach in calculating the melted amount world-wide, but I will allow scientists to take care of this and just show you visually how fast the proses is happening and will give you a minute to think about this. 

My installation evolved greatly since the first thought of it, and it will continues to change. At first I envisioned a large structure in the middle of the room representing the bottom of an iceberg. At the very end of it I was thinking on adding a chunk of ice which will melt and it will look like the whole big iceberg is melting. But for the final installation I ended up having many of ice chunks suspended in the air. And again the original idea was to allow all of that melted water to just stay on the floor and puddle and run freely, making it very uncomfortable for the observers. I would still want to make the installation this way with water on the floor. For this studio however it would be perhaps ok with one ice piece, but with estimated 48 liters (~105 lb) of water on the floor it would create a little flood. So I had to figure out how to keep all of this water content for 5-8 hours. 

In total during the month of September I estimate that I created about 25 gallons (95 liters) of ice (the installation was active 5 days having about 5 gallons worth of ice each time). 

Very fortunately at that moment I was working on another installation in the smaller room, wanting to make a snow blizzard, and I was looking for snow options to make this happen. Surely, it had to be fake snow since I wanted it to last for a while. I came across a material called Sodium Polyacrylate. This super absorbent white element was just perfect, it looked like snow from dry to slushy conditions, it could hold a lot of water in place. I decided to place this "snow" under the suspended ice. Looked great! But there was still a discovery to make: dripping melted water would create intricate patterns on snow. Because of the rotation of the heavy ice pieces and multiple dripping points, snow would record circular patterns, unique for each ice chunk. 

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These patterns acted like time records of the melt, drop by drop completing the circle. When ice was long gone, they remained on the snow surface, it was a small historical evidence of something previously present.

During two days when my studio was open for public at I-Park, I had a lot of visitors to show my installation to. We talked about environment and global warming on the final weekend of the September, which was unexpectedly hot, so unusual for CT for this time of year. Ice melted even faster than expected and it was very obvious to everyone that we are not living a fiction and the climate is changing. When you are gradually getting used to something new, you don't necessarily register the change. With my installation I was offering to take a moment and think of this change while observing drops of water separating from the melting ice and slicing the air to record the moment of change.

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In the smaller room I created a different tiny installation with the same snow I used for the large one. I invited my visitors for a brief moment to experience a joy of playing with this magical white substance we call snow. Adults had fun, children did not want to leave.

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Just 5 hours and it's not enough time to say everything what needs to be said. But this is a start and if you read these lines perhaps you also care about this as much as I do.

 

 

Snow Phenomenon by Ekaterina Smirnova

To me snow is already a phenomenon! But apparently this can go much further and there is no limit to the intricate beauty of shiny white frozen water. Here is a list to the snow and ice conditions I came across so far.

Diamond dust image is taken in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia

Diamond dust image is taken in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia

Diamond dust is a ground-level cloud composed of tiny ice crystals. This meteorological phenomenon is also referred to simply as ice crystals and is reported in the METAR code as IC. Diamond dust generally forms under otherwise clear or nearly clear skies, so it is sometimes referred to as clear-sky precipitation. It is most commonly observed in Antarctica and the Arctic, but it can occur anywhere with a temperature well below freezing. In polar regions diamond dust may continue for several days without interruption. Wiki

This photo is from Hokkaido, Japan, near the volcano (Mount Io)

This photo is from Hokkaido, Japan, near the volcano (Mount Io)

Needle ice is a phenomenon that occurs when the temperature of the soil is above 0 °C (32 °F) and the surface temperature of the air is below 0 °C (32 °F). The subterranean liquid water is brought to the surface via capillary action, where it freezes and contributes to a growing needle-like ice column. Needle ice requires a flowing form of water underneath the surface, from that point it comes into contact with air that is below freezing. This area of the process usually occurs at night when temperature peaks its low point. From then on, it produces a needle like structure as we know as “Needle Ice”. Wiki

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Sastrugi, or zastrugi, are sharp irregular grooves or ridges formed on a snow surface by wind erosion, saltation of snow particles, and deposition, and found in polar and open sites such as frozen lakes in cold temperate regions. The ridges are usually parallel to the prevailing winds; they are steep on the windward side and sloping to the leeward side. Smaller irregularities of this type are known as ripples (small, ~10 mm high) or wind ridges. Wiki

Frozen Ob sea, Siberia

Frozen Ob sea, Siberia

This is a good example of wind ridges I found on the same frozen sea, though formed out of dog's foot prints.

This is a good example of wind ridges I found on the same frozen sea, though formed out of dog's foot prints.

Snow storm in New York, spring 2017

Snow storm in New York, spring 2017

Ice pellets are a form of precipitation consisting of small, translucent balls of ice. Ice pellets are smaller than hailstone which form in thunderstorms rather than in winter, and are different from graupel ("soft hail") which is made of frosty white rime, and from a mixture of rain and snow which is a slushy liquid or semisolid. Ice pellets often bounce when they hit the ground or other solid objects, and make a higher-pitched "tap" when striking objects like jackets, windshields, and dried leaves, compared to the dull splat of liquid raindrops. Pellets generally do not freeze into a solid mass unless mixed with freezing rain. The METAR code for ice pellets is PL. Wiki

A snow roller is a rare meteorological phenomenon in which large snowballs are formed naturally as chunks of snow are blown along the ground by wind, picking up material along the way, in much the same way that the large snowballs used in snowmen are made. They can be as small as a tennis ball, but they can also be bigger than a car. Wiki

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*This post will be updated with more types of snow phenomenon, please comment and suggest what else should be featured.

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European Geosciences Union symposium 2017 by Ekaterina Smirnova

This spring I traveled to Vienna to join 14,495 scientists from 107 countries discussing about Earth, environment and climate. This event took place in a large conference center, to be able to provide enough space for dozens of simultaneous talks, hundreds of posters, science booth and so on.

For 5 days from early morning to mid evening important topics were discussed, such as: Missions and techniques for planetary explorations,
Atmospheric and Meteorological research,
Vegetation-climate interactions...

But I was most interested in the following topics:
Arctic environmental change: global opportunities and threats,
Cities' resilience to a changing climate,
Present and future of permafrost in a climate changing world,
Rising methane and climate,
Future global cooperation on Climate Sciences...

It was amazing to see so many scientists uniting to protect our planet and present their research of the changing climate. I am very inspired as an artist and this symposium most definitely will help me with my current project "Frozen Waters" where I am researching snow and ice as a fragile phenomena in a warming environment.

I am very humbled to being able to also give a talk during this symposium and present my poster in the session "Scientists, artists and the Earth: co-operating for a better planet sustainability". 

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I am not alone in my fight for better planet sustainability and reducing global warming. If you are with me, please share your thoughts and lets work o this together! 

 

 

 

Falling in love with snow by Ekaterina Smirnova

I often meet people who tell me that they do not like snow and I am always surprised to hear that. To me, snow is something so beautiful and magical, so hard to describe. I understand, that large amounts of snow over long period of time might be very hard to handle. It causes various problems. It is especially hard for people who are forced to physically interact with snow: shovel it, clear off, dig out their cars... Snow always comes along with cold, one is impossible without another. Cold weather is not making things easier. But with all of those difficulties comes the beauty, purity and shine. I always wait patiently for the first snow of the winter. Will it snow today? Did I miss it at night? Oh, wait, here they come, so slow and lazy, one, another, many. They don't rush to land. The air becomes milky and objects start to disappear in a white, still translucent, fluff. While I was watching snowflakes fall, I did not notice, that a whole bunch is already covering the ground and other surfaces. Very fresh and crips veil is now covering everything around. Winter is putting on her delicate lacy lingerie. Then she slips on her undergarment, then a blouse, jacket, coat and her diamond jewelry as a final touch. 

Ice Village on Lake Shikaribetsu, Japan

Ice Village on Lake Shikaribetsu, Japan

I am measuring the ice level. 52 cm (20.5").

I am measuring the ice level. 52 cm (20.5").

Did you know that snow can sound different? When I landed to my hometown in Siberia, Russia, as soon as I stepped out of the airplane I noticed, that the sound under my feet was different from the sound I've heard in Hokkaido, Japan. Siberian snow that day sounded very bright, like a bell. The temperature that day was well below zero, so the snow was very hard and dry. Thousands of snowflakes were crushing under my weight and sound was traveling fast in a crisp air, resonating a cheerful bright music. Hokkaido snow was more moist, due to the higher temperature and increased moisture of Japan, so the sound was rather more dull like hitting a wooden bowl with a wooden spoon. Do you hear it? It's very rhythmical, matching the pace of the foot steps. 

Do you taste snow when no one is looking? I do! I especially like to eat if off fir-tree branches when available. The flavor of snow varies from place to place. For example in Hokkaido it taste synthetic, I explain it with the location – Hokkaido is an island in the middle of Pacific ocean, evaporated from the ocean water later turns into snow. Seawater is rich in magnesium and dissolved salts like Sodium and Chloride, in small parts it remains in snow, which effects the flavor. In Novosibirsk city, in the middle of Siberia, on the other hand, snow taste like Turkish dessert with nuts called Halva (щербет). There is no salty seawater anywhere around, even the closest ocean (Arctic) is fresh, so the flavor of snow is rather sweet.

Every time when I look at snow I observe something new. And there is no end to these observations. If one would want to argue, I will give a good example - each snowflake is unique, as documented by W. A. Bentley in his Dover Pictorial Archive. By the way, "Wilson Alwyn 'Snowflake' Bentley (February 9, 1865 – December 23, 1931) is one of the first known photographers of snowflakes. He perfected a process of catching flakes on black velvet in such a way that their images could be captured before they either melted or sublimated" (wiki).

I am of course not as good as Mr. Bentley photographing individual snowflakes, but I am trying my best to document snow in a large scale. During my two month travel in the subarctic climate areas of Canada, Siberia and Japan I've collected tons of photographs, videos and sound. I am starting to work on a series of books names "Frozen Waters", focusing on snow and ice in its different shapes and forms, on water or land, on fields or mountains, I will explore how human and animals interact with snow and I will observe the climate change. 

Lets think about our environment, consider what we are doing wrong and correct our mistakes while we can.

Fall in love with snow with me.

 

Frozen Waters, show in Japan by Ekaterina Smirnova

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During my stay at Tenjinyama art studios in Sapporo (Jan 2017) I was doing research of snow. The goal is to present the fragility of snow due to the rising temperatures globally. At this show I am displaying a series of works on paper that were created with snow.

My viewers are invited to download a free app Blippar and experience augmented reality (AR), though which paintings come to live. Each of these pieces was recorded during it's creation over a period of few hours (up to a whole day), during which the snow was melting on paper and leaving patterns as the water dried. I am creating a utopian experience imagining a future where you will no longer be able to see snow in person and will only be able to experience it via recordings, videos and photographs. 

For my creations I chose different types of snow. Dirty snow from the roads made the ugliest mark on paper leaving behind all of the dirt, that it originally absorbed. Because of the overuse of salt in the cities in winter even the snow carries large amounts of salt, large enough to leave behind crystallized salt patterns which are presented on the picture below.

Varies sound recordings associated with snow and ice are accompany each artworks as well.

Try Augmented Reality now:
1. download Blippar app on your smart device
2. turn of sound
3. point of any of the artworks below wait for the system to recognize the image
Note:
you can flip your phone vertical or horizontal. To see the next image close the previous (x)

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

Try AR on this image

I am continuing my research on this subject. So please stay tuned, there is more work to come.

Exploring subarctic snow in Japan by Ekaterina Smirnova

Why snow? 
There are a few reasons why I am interested in snow. Besides enjoying the obvious beauty and purity of snow, I want to look at it from a different perspective: environmental. Snow and ice are very sensitive to the temperature change. In the global scale of climate change where Earth's temperatures are keeping on rising, world's snow is melting and I am scared to imagine a utopian future where we will never see this natural beautiful phenomenon.

I traveled to Japan, it's most Northern part – Hokkaido, to research snow in subarctic region. During my residence at the Sapporo Tenjinyama Art Studio I was collecting a lot of photo references, sketching, brainstorming and developing ideas on how to represent the fragility of snow. 

Prof. Shigeru Aoki, Physical Oceanography, Antarctic Cryosphere.

Prof. Shigeru Aoki, Physical Oceanography, Antarctic Cryosphere.

I visited the Low Temperature Research Institute of Hokkaido University and talked to scientists to study more about their research. When meeting with glaciologist Prof. Shegeru Aoki, who has helped with IPCC Report (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), I've learned about concerns of melting snow in Antarctica. The continental snow there is slowly moving off land towards the ocean, which did not happen before. Besides increasing the level of world's ocean, melted ice is also releasing trapped CO2 back to the atmosphere, which of course makes things worse. 

In - 50C room: Prof. Naoki Watanabe, Astropysical Chemistry, Ice and Planetary Science group.

In - 50C room: Prof. Naoki Watanabe, Astropysical Chemistry, Ice and Planetary Science group.

Japan is famous for drilling ice very deep to collect samples of glacier. Prof. Naoki Watanabe was very kind to give me a tour to the -50C room!!! where I could observe glacier samples from 740 000 yr. B.P. (3000 m deep)! 

Samples of glacier in various depths.

Samples of glacier in various depths.

Very thin layer of glacier ice with special light. Deeper ice has stronger pressure – crystals become larger.

Very thin layer of glacier ice with special light. Deeper ice has stronger pressure – crystals become larger.

Later Prof. Watanabe showed to me current experiments researching ice crystals in Oort cloud. Impressive and very complicated machines take few rooms. Exploring Oort cloud helps us to understand the formation of the Solar System. Ice in very primitive form is acting very slowly in extreme temperatures of deep space (-263C). Prof. Watanabe and his team running various tests to understand the composition and processes in molecular cloud at the edge of the Solar System.  

Studying from professionals I would like to implement my knowledge to the future artwork. I even would like to make my own tests, such as growing snow crystals and exploring the composition of collected samples of snow.

 

Art world is not very supportive of environmental art by Ekaterina Smirnova

There were only a hand-full of artists who actually did something meaningful and wanted to address the environmental issue. I would like to celebrate them in this post. 

Read More

Participating at the science symposium: DPS 48/ EPSC 11 by Ekaterina Smirnova

In October 2016 I went to the science symposium where the Division of Planetary Science came together with the European Planetary Science Congress (DPS 48/ EPSC 11). There were over 1400 scientists from various institutions such as NASA, ESA, SETI, JAXA, SwRI and others. 

I came to the symposium as an artist, to present my works inspired by the space mission Rosetta of the European Space Agency. I displayed my poster in the poster session with other scientific posters. In my poster I outlined the ways I explore the comet 67P, through bodily senses: vision, touch, smell and hearing.

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Along with my poster I brought three of my 67P paintings to be included in the exhibition organized by the International Association of Astronomical Artists (IAAA). For the first time I was presenting my latest project – augmented reality (AR), inspired by the spectroscopic data of OSIRIS, an instrument onboard the Rosetta spacecraft. My viewers were invited to experience a virtual colorful layer on top of my paintings, representing RGB data. A special AR app could be uploaded for free to your smart device and by directing it to my paintings you would be able to view an additional image, as well as to hear sound. As an artist I have a goal to represent the scientific research in an artistic way, while explaining to my audience the complexity and the vast variety of the data gathered during each mission. By including the AR into my project I try to show that some data could only be viewed via special instruments, in Rosetta's case it is the Optical, Spectroscopic, and Infrared Remote Imaging System (OSIRIS), in my case it is your cellphone. 

67P III, original artwork

67P III, original artwork

         67P with an AR layer

         67P with an AR layer

I was very happy to see that this project attracted a lot of attention and that scientists and guests of the symposium enjoyed playing with AR. 

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At my display you could also find postcards that included the smell of the comet 67P, which were kindly provided by the Open University (read more about these cards: www.newscientist.com). Even though the smell is very unpleasant, those cards were a big hit! 

Events of this scale are very important in my opinion, not only can you study a lot during the lectures that run from 8.30 am till 5pm for five days, but also meet many fascinating people and discuss their research in person. I made a lot of new connections and of course got inspired for new work. I treasure my time with the specialists from the Rosetta team, who help me to improve my knowledge about the mission, which allows me to make better art more closer to the science. I spent some time with scientists working on spectroscopic data and I am planning on continuing working on my AR project improving it with information I learnt from them. 

Matt Taylor is giving a talk at PDS/EPSC about the Rosetta mission

Matt Taylor is giving a talk at PDS/EPSC about the Rosetta mission