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Frost flowers in the Arctic

Research Achievements

Frost flowers in the Arctic

Trainee Jeff Bowman (Oceanography) has been doing pioneering studies of frost flowers found in the Arctic when frost begins to form wherever an imperfection can be found on the ice surface. From these nucleation points flower-like frost structures grow vertically, quickly rising to centimeters in height. As they grow. frost flowers wick moisture from the ice surface, incorporating salt, marine bacteria, and other substances. To investigate this Jeff grew frost flowers in a freezer lab at the Univ. of Washington before moving into the field, collecting frost flowers during several challenging expeditions. In Geophysical Research Letters he reported that in both the lab and field, bacteria are consistently more abundant in frost flowers than in the sea ice. Since microscopic pockets in sea ice support an active community of psychrophiles (cold-loving microorganisms), even in the coldest months of the year, these results are exciting because frost flowers are even colder than sea ice.