Dipartimento di Scienze della Vita e dell'Ambiente - Guida degli insegnamenti (Syllabus)


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Seat Scienze
A.A. 2016/2017
Credits 6
Hours 48
Period 2^ semestre
Language ENG
U-gov code SM05 5S352


A good knowledge of climatology and meteorology, physics and mathematics is advisable, together with some knowledge of oceanography.

Development of the course

The course is based on theoretical lessons in English, presentation of case-studies, and specific insights.

Learning outcomes

The Course is aimed to give a complete background on the physics of sea ice and its role in the climate system, also including ice mechanics, icebergs and the physics of oil-ice interaction. 

Ability to apply the knowledge:
The students will have the capability to apply received knowledges for interpreting the climatic, atmospheric and marine phenomena that are potentially hazardous because of the trends introduced by climate change; they will also have the capability to apply basic methods of monitoring and forecasting these changes.

Soft skills:
Transversal competences include all the different aspects related to ice system in the marine environment, their links with global climate change, practical cases on effects, forecasts and possible actions.


Module 1. The physics of sea ice and ice formation
Oceanographic background – Arctic and Antarctic
What happens when sea water cools
Growth of ice crystals 
Brine cells and brine rejection 
Salinity structure 
Summer melt processes 
First- and multi-year ice

2. Ice growth and decay
Thermodynamic model 
Equilibrium thickness 
Sensitivity of thickness to changes in forcing
Sensitivity to albedo.

3. Ice dynamics 
Ice motion - driving forces 
Free drift solution 
Ice interaction
The dynamics of polynyas

4.The ice thickness distribution
 Ridge and lead formation 
 Geometry of pressure ridges 
The probability density of ice thickness and its evolution 
 Mathematical form of ridges and leads distributions

5. Ice mechanics
The ridging and rafting process
Ridge evolution and decay
Ice interaction with structures
Ice interaction with the seabed

6. The marginal ice zone
Ice floes
Waves in ice 
Modelling development of floe size distribution 

7. Icebergs and ice islands
Distribution in Arctic and Antarctic 
Physical properties 
Decay and breakup 
Role in the oceans and in sediment transport 
Iceberg scouring – depths, incidence, seabed interaction
Mechanics of iceberg and ice island interaction with structures
Upstream detection of ice islands 

8. Oil spills under ice
Scope of the under ice blowout problem
Other sources of spills under and in ice
Physical behaviour of crude oil in very cold water
Dynamics of a rising oil-infested bubble plume
Incorporation of oil in rough sea ice – containment factors
Ice growth under an oil layer
Oil penetration into brine drainage channels
Oil transport by ice
The melt process and mode of final oil release
Oil behaviour in pancake ice and the marginal ice zone

9. Two important ice regions – Greenland Sra and Beaufort Sea
East Greenland waters
Greenland Sea convection zone
South Greenland and the Storis
Baffin Bay ice conditions
Nares Strait
The Lincoln Sea and waters north of Greenland
The Beaufort Gyre and its variability
Changes in ice conditions in central Beaufort Sea
The Beaufort Sea coastal zone
The summer Beaufort Sea as a new MIZ
Methane release from seabed

10. Thinning and retreat of sea ice in response to global change 
Satellite data on retreat 
Parkinson - retreat in sectors, Arctic and Antarctic 
What is found in Antarctic 
Thinning - the submarine and other evidence 
Model predictions of a future seasonal Arctic ice cover

11. Arctic feedbacks and acceleration of global change
Albedo change
Snowline retreat
Global sea level rise
Offshore methane release and its threat to climate

12. Conclusions – Ice, planet Earth and the future 
Ice ages and their causes 
Earlier ice-free periods 
Is Man the only cause of current changes? 
What will happen in the longer term? 
Can geoengineering save us? 
This module will include, in the afternoon, a lecture on sea ice and the history of polar exploration, to be given at the museum of the Istituto Geografico Polare “Silvio Zavatti”, Fermo.

Development of the examination

Methods for assessing learning outcomes:
The examination is a written test consisting of 30 questions formulated on all of the subjects of the integrated course, including geological and climatic risk and an oral discussion on the same.

Criteria for assessing learning outcomes: 
During the examination, it will be evaluated the capability of the student to properly answer and discuss various issues, the general competence on problematics, the use of appropriate terminology.

Criteria for measuring learning outcomes:
The final assessment is made of thirty. The examination is considered as passed with a vote of 18/30 or higher. The student can decide to decline the proposed vote and give again the examination in the following session.

Criteria for conferring final mark:
The final assessment will be given depending on the capability of the student to answer all the questions, on the effectiveness of the learning process and communication skill of acquired concepts. Being an integrated course,

Recommended reading

The book of the course is "Ice in the Ocean" by P Wadhams (Taylor and Francis, 2000) Another very useful book which will be used in the course are "Global Warming - the Complete Briefing" by Sir John Houghton, 4th Edn (Cambridge University Press). During the course there will be specific references to material that could be pursued further in sources such as “On Sea Ice” by Willy Weeks (Univ. Alaska Press)
“The Geophysics of Sea Ice” (ed. N Untersteiner)
“The Physics of Ice-Covered Seas” (Univ Helsinki)    
“The Drift of Sea Ice “ (M Lepparanta)
“Field Techniques for Sea Ice Research” (ed. H. Eicken)
“Ice Mechanics – Risks to Offshore Structures” by T J O Sanderson (Taylor and Francis)


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