Tag Archives: salinity

My favorite demonstration of the coolest mixing process: Salt fingering!

I am updating many of my old posts on experiments and combining multiple posts on the same topic to come up with a state-of-the-art post, so you can always find the best materials on here. And today I would like to present you my favorite experiment: Salt fingering!

Check out the new page I made for salt fingering!

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Self-portrait with salt fingers

As you guys might have noticed, I’ve been playing around with my site a quite bit. My blog has moved to mirjamglessmer.com/blog in order to make room for static pages of my favorite experiments or teaching tips right at the landing site mirjamglessmer.com. What do you think? Good idea? Did you notice anything that isn’t quite working yet or do you have advice or wishes? Let me know!

Guest post: Estimating salinity as a homework assignment

Today I am super excited to share a guest post that my awesome friend Joke Lübbecke wrote for us. Joke is a professor in physical oceanography in Kiel, and we like to chat about teaching occasionally. She has great ideas for exciting tasks for students to do and I bet they learn a lot from her. Here is what she writes (and the photos in this post are the original photos that her students kindly agreed to let us use on this blog. Thanks very much!):

Estimating salinity as a homework assignment

When I gave the second-year oceanography students in my class bottles of salt water and – without any further instructions – asked them to find out what the salinity was, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Would they just take a sip and guess 35? Would they all use the same approach? So when they handed in their solutions in the following week I was very happy to see how creative they had been and how many different things they had tried to get to an answer. For example, they had

  • Evaporated the water and weighted the dry salt
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Evaporating water from salt water and weighing the remaining salt to measure salinity

  • Used differences in buoyancy between salt and fresh water
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Measuring salinity by comparing buoyancy with known samples

  • Measured the electric resistance of the sample, then tried to mix a solution with the same resistance by adding more and more (defined quantities of) salt to a fresh water sample
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Measuring salinity by measuring the resistance of the sample and reproducing a sample with known salinity and the same resistance

or simply

  • Tasted the sample and compared to water samples with known salinities :-)

The numbers they came up with were as diverse as their approaches so this was also a nice demonstration of the difficulties to accurately measure salinity.

(And of course the salinity of the water sample they got was about 35, but who cares? – the journey is the reward!)

Ice cubes melting at the bottom of the beakers

Because surely there is one more post in this topic? ;-)

For those of you who haven’t heard about the “melting ice cube” obsession of mine, please check out the links to other posts at the end of this post. For everybody else’s sake, let’s dive right in!

When Kristin and I ran the workshop at EMSEA14, a couple of people asked very interesting questions. One that I totally had to follow up on was this: What would happen if the ice cubes were forced to the bottom of the beakers? Of course we knew what theory said about this, but who cares? I still had to try.

If you have ever tried holding down ice cubes with straws…

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…and we have a movie of this! :-)

…you might know that that is quite difficult. So this is the experimental setup I ended up with:

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Ice cubes melting at the bottom of a fresh water and a salt water beaker

Zooming out a little bit, this is my fancy equipment:

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The camera gets a white skirt over the tripod because the reflection of the tripod is seriously annoying

Zooming out a little more, this is the whole setup:

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Chair on table in my winter garden, holding the white-ish oilcloth that serves as background. I should invest in a proper rod for the upper edge of the oil cloth, the current one has suffered a bit…

I know that some people want to try the experiment for themselves, so I’ll hide the rest of the experiment behind the cut, at least until Kristin tells me that she’s done it :-)

Continue reading

Creating a continuous stratification in a tank, using the double bucket filling method

Because I am getting sick of stratifications not working out the way I planned them.

Creating stratifications, especially continuous stratifications, is a pain. Since I wanted a nice stratification for an experiment recently, I finally decided to do a literature search on how the professionals create their stratifications. And the one method that was mentioned over and over again was the double bucket method, which I will present to you today.

Two reservoirs are placed at a higher level than the tank to be filled, and connected with a U-tube which is initially closed with a clamp. Both reservoirs are filled with fresh water. To one of the buckets, salt is added to achieve the highest desired salinity in the stratification we are aiming for. From this bucket, a pump pumps water down into the tank to be filled (or, for the low-tech version: use air pressure and a bubble-free hose to drive water down into the tank as shown in the figure above!); the lower end of the hose rests on a sponge that will float on the water in the tank. When the pump is switched on (or alternatively, the bubble-free hose from the reservoir to the tank opened), the clamp is removed from the U-tube. So for every unit of salt water leaving the salty reservoir through the hose, half a unit of fresh water flows in to keep the water levels in both reservoirs the same height. Thus the salt water is, little by little, mixed with fresh water, so the water flowing out into the tank gets gradually fresher. If all goes well, this results in a continuous salinity stratification.

Things that might go wrong include, but are not limited to,

  • freshwater not mixing well in the saline reservoir, hence the salinity in that reservoir not changing continuously. To avoid that, stir.
  • bubbles in the U-tube (especially if the U-tube is run over the top edges of the reservoirs which is a lot more feasible than drilling holes into the reservoirs) messing up the flow. It is important to make sure there is no air in the tube connecting the two reservoirs!
  • water shooting out of the hose and off the floating sponge to mess up the stratification in the tank. Avoid this by lowering the flow rate if you can adjust your pump, or by floating a larger sponge.

P.S.: For more practical tips for tank experiments, check out the post “water seeks its level” in which I describe how to keep the water level in a tank constant despite having an inflow to the tank.

Double overflow

Because sometimes one overflow simply isn’t enough.

Finn’s group came up with – and ran – an overflow experiment with many different densities and even more colors. While the movie didn’t turn out too well, the idea was pretty awesome.

Rolf went ahead and modeled the experiment right away. And because the plume didn’t go across the second ridge in a dramatic enough fashion, he did the same experiment again, this time with a higher density contrast.

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Salinity – the higher, the redder, the lower, the bluer. Density higher than in the figure above. Figure courtesy of Rolf Käse

If you compare those two figures, you notice that the second one is a lot more diffusive than the first one. To test whether the model was doing well, we obviously had to run both experiments in the tank, too. Watch the movie below to see how they turned out:

Turns out that also for us, the run with the higher density contrast is a lot more diffusive. Kelvin-Helmholtz-instabilities develop on the first down slope of the first ridge, and generally a lot more mixing is going on. To get an impression of the regions of high mixing and recirculation, rather than guessing from the diffusing salinities, Rolf displayed the horizontal velocity:

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Along-tank velocity. Blue to the left, red to the right. Figure courtesy of Rolf Käse.

Notice the high mixing whenever the plume is running down a slope, and then the recirculations in the valleys. Pretty awesome, huh?

Forced internal waves in a continuous stratification

Plus all kinds of dyes. (deutscher Text unten)

Using the continuous salinity stratification created yesterday, Rolf and Daniel conducted a really cool experiment: They forced internal waves and watched them develop. I’ve converted their movie into a time-lapse; watch it below.

Mit der kontinuierlichen Salzschichtung, die Daniel und Rolf gestern gebastelt haben, haben sie danach noch weiter experimentiert. Sie haben einen durch einen kleinen Motor angetriebenen Stempel in die Schichtung eingeführt und auf und ab bewegt. Das Wellenfeld, das sich dadurch entwickelt hat, sieht man im Film oben im Zeitraffer (einige kurze Abschnitte zwischendurch zeigen auch Echtzeit). Farbkristalle, die nachträglich hinzugefügt wurden, helfen, die Strömungen zu visualisieren.

Creating a continuous stratification.

And watching internal waves – a data-model comparison. (deutscher Text unten)

In an experiment similar to the one done by the group looking at the effects of temperature and salinity on density, the wave group, supported by Rolf, started looking at how to create a continuous stratification through internal wave action. Two water masses, one saline and one fresh, were separated in a tank. When the separation was removed, an internal wave developed.

Salinity and tank dimensions were recreated similarly in the tank and in a model, and you can watch the comparison below. Impressive, isn’t it?

Mit der Unterstützung von Rolf hat die Wellengruppe angefangen zu untersuchen, wie eine kontinuierliche Salzschichtung durch Vermischung durch interne Wellen erstellt werden kann. Genau die gleichen Bedingungen wie im Tank (Dimensionen und Salzgehalt) hat Rolf auch in seinem Modell losgelassen und hier ist die Simulation zum Vergleich. Eindrucksvoll wie ähnlich sich die Natur und die Modelllösung sind, oder?

Effects of temperature and salinity on density and stratification

Removing a barrier between waters of different densities and watching what happens. (deutscher Text unten)

Today, one of the groups performed a classical experiment (shown for example here) – but the awesome thing is that they came up with the planning pretty much by themselves in order to determine the effects of temperature and salinity on density. They compared water of the same temperature, but one fresh and one salty; warm salty vs cold fresh water; and cold salty vs warm fresh water. They predicted the outcome correctly, and we are showing two movies below: One normal movie and one in slow motion. Enjoy!

Heute hat eine Gruppe ein klassisches Experiment reproduziert. Allerdings haben sie es quasi selbstständig entwickelt.

Um den Effekt von Temperatur und Salzgehalt auf die Dichte zu bestimmen, werden zwei Wassermassen in einen Tank gefüllt, durch ein Wehr getrennt. Das Wehr wird herausgezogen und die dichtere Wassermasse schichtet sich unter die weniger dichte. Die Gruppe hat drei Fälle verglichen: Wasser gleicher Temperatur mit und ohne Salz; warmes salziges Wasser mit kaltem süßen; und warmes süßes Wasser mit kaltem salzigen. Der Film unten zeigt eine Zeitlupe der Bewegung.

:-)

 

 

Guest post: The mystery of the cold room

Guest post by Kristin Richter!
Today I’m excited to bring to you a guest post from Innsbruck, Austria, written by my friend Kristin Richter. Kristin ran the oceanography lab in Bergen before I took over, and she is a total enabler when it comes to deciding between playing with water, ice and food dye, or doing “real” work. Plus she always has awesome ideas of what else one could try for fun experiences. We just submitted an abstract for a conference together, so keep your fingers crossed for us – you might be able to come see us give a workshop on experiments in oceanography teaching pretty soon! But now, over to Kristin.
A little while ago, I made an interesting experience while presenting some science to students and the general public on the “Day of Alpine Science”  in Innsbruck using hands-on experiments. Actually, my task was to talk about glaciers but being a physical oceanographer I felt like I was on thin ice. Well, glaciers, I thought, hmmm … ice, melting ice, going into the sea, … sea, … sea ice! And I remembered how Mirjam once showed a nice experiment to me and some friends about melting ice in fresh and salt water. And suddenly I was all excited about the idea.
To at least mention the glaciers, I planned to fill two big food boxes with water, have ice float (and melt) in one of the tanks and put ice on top of a big stone (Greenland) in another tank filled with water to show the different impact of melting land ice and sea ice on sea level. Since melting the ice would take a while (especially on a chilly morning outside in early April) I would have enough time to present the “actual” experiment – coloured ice cubes melting in two cups of water – one with freshwater, and the other one with salt water.
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Melting ice. A comparison of sea ice and glaciers melting’s impact on sea level, ice cubes melting in fresh and salt water on the right. Photo by “Forschungsschwerpunkt Alpiner Raum”, University of Innsbruck.

As we expected many groups with many students, I needed a lot of ice. I told the organizers so (“I need a lot of ice, you know, frozen water”) and they said no problem, they will turn on their cooling chamber. The day before, I went there and put tons of water into little cups and ice cube bags into the chamber to freeze over night.The next morning – some hundreds of students had already  arrived and were welcomed in the courtyard – I went to get some ice for the first group. I opened the cooling chamber,… and froze instantly. Not so very much because of the cold temperature but because I was met by lots of ice cube bags and little cups with… water. Like in LIQUID WATER! Cold liquid water, yeah, but still LIQUID! Arrrghhhh, my class was about to begin in a few minutes and I had NO ICE. “Ah, yes”, volunteered the friendly caretaker, “come to think of it, it is just a cooling chamber!”I started panicking, until a colleague pointed out the Sacher Cafe (this is Austria after all) and their ice machine across the road. I never really appreciated ice machines, but that one along with the friendly staff saved the day. Luckily, I brought some colored ice cubes from at home – so I was all set to start.

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Ice melting in fresh water (left) and salt water (right). Photo by “Forschungsschwerpunkt Alpiner Raum”, University of Innsbruck.

And the station was a big success, the students were all interested, asked many questions and were excited about the colored melt water sinking and not sinking. :-)  I even managed to “steal” some students from the neighboring station of my dear meteorology colleagues. That was something I was particularly proud of as they could offer a weather station, lots of fun instruments to play with and a projector to show all of their fancy data on a big screen. (Actually, I also abandoned my station for a while to check out their weather balloon.)

Anyway, I had a lot of fun that day and could definitely relate to Mirjams enthusiasm for this kind of teaching. I can’t wait for the next opportunity to share some of those simple yet cool experiments with interested students. I will bring my own ice though!

 

Help! Equation of State?

Is there an equation of state for hypersaline water at very cold temperatures?

A friend of mine is looking to calculate changes in density of a hypersaline Antarctic lake from summer to winter. Apparently, this lake is about 10 times saltier than the ocean and often cools down to -17C at the bottom.

My own spontaneous answer was that I am not aware of such an equation of state, and that I doubt that there is a lot of empirical data in that property range. Plus from talking to Dead Sea researchers while working on double diffusion, I know that measuring salinities that are that high is not at all easy – the constancy of composition of sea water breaks down (at least in the Dead Sea) which has consequences for the measurement methods that can be used, and in any case CTDs aren’t calibrated for those salinities. But I am hoping that the collective wisdom of my readers will come up with a better answer.

So, dear readers. Do you know of an equation of state that applies to that range of properties, or do you have any other comments on the issue? Please leave a comment below or get in touch with me! That would a) really help my friend, and b) help satisfy my curiosity :-)