Blog Series From our Interns: Kiran Amin on Researching Innovative Solutions to Repair the Arctic


Researching Innovative Solutions to Repair the Arctic

I am a third-year undergraduate at Downing College, Cambridge, specialising in Applied Mathematics. I enjoy mathematical modelling, particularly when applied to the environmental sciences. Fuelled by the urgency of climate change, I dedicated my summer to researching innovative solutions into repairing the Arctic. The Arctic and its sea ice play a pivotal role in the climate of the Northern hemisphere by regulating ocean currents, temperatures and reflecting radiation back into space. The loss of Arctic ice, which estimates put as early as 2060, regardless of reductions in carbon emissions, would therefore destabilise a significant region of the Earth!
In my project, I considered the plausibility of thickening thinning ice sheets by directly pumping sea water on top and investigating how it freezes. Ice that withstands multiple summers without melting becomes more structurally stable than newer ice and has greater reflectivity properties. Hence, it is vital to replenish thinning ice and reverse the declining ice cover. My investigation consisted of reading and researching current literature, forming mathematical models and hands-on lab work. The mathematical models aimed to address issues of how the pumps could work without melting surrounding ice to the point where the pumps no longer work. The model I developed considers how water freezes down a shallow ice cone which would form as a result of pumping water from a point source. The models simplified the overall problem to freshwater, but more work is needed to model the way in which salty seawater freezes and how salt gradients are affected by the flow of water and formation of ice. Experimentally, I repeated previous experiments undertaken by a master's student, where water was pumped onto the centre of a circular ice sheet, flowed outwards producing regions of melting and accretion of the original ice! It was difficult to produce flat, smooth ice using the current methods and so I designed a new rig to produce ice to hopefully obtain more consistent results in the future.
As a mathematician, it was very fun to get my hands on the ice thickening problem with the experiments and compare it to what the theory I developed predicted, and conjecture why certain instabilities formed in experiments. The internship has helped me truly appreciate how significant the research by the Centre for Climate Repair, among many other organisations across Cambridge and beyond, is for refreezing the Arctic and repairing the effects of the changing global climate!