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.