Ice - Ice and Transportation

Ice and Transportation

Ice can also be an obstacle; for harbors near the poles, being ice-free is an important advantage; ideally, all year long. Examples are Murmansk (Russia), Petsamo (Russia, formerly Finland) and Vardø (Norway). Harbors which are not ice-free are opened up using icebreakers.

Ice forming on roads is a dangerous winter hazard. Black ice is very difficult to see, because it lacks the expected frosty surface. Whenever there is freezing rain or snow which occurs at a temperature near the melting point, it is common for ice to build up on the windows of vehicles. Driving safely requires the removal of the ice build-up. Ice scrapers are tools designed to break the ice free and clear the windows, though removing the ice can be a long and laborious process.

Far enough below the freezing point, a thin layer of ice crystals can form on the inside surface of windows. This usually happens when a vehicle has been left alone after being driven for a while, but can happen while driving, if the outside temperature is low enough. Moisture from the driver's breath is the source of water for the crystals. It is troublesome to remove this form of ice, so people often open their windows slightly when the vehicle is parked in order to let the moisture dissipate, and it is now common for cars to have rear-window defrosters to solve the problem. A similar problem can happen in homes, which is one reason why many colder regions require double-pane windows for insulation.

When the outdoor temperature stays below freezing for extended periods, very thick layers of ice can form on lakes and other bodies of water, although places with flowing water require much colder temperatures. The ice can become thick enough to drive onto with automobiles and trucks. Doing this safely requires a thickness of at least 30 cm (one foot).

For ships, ice presents two distinct hazards. Spray and freezing rain can produce an ice build-up on the superstructure of a vessel sufficient to make it unstable, and to require it to be hacked off or melted with steam hoses. And icebergs — large masses of ice floating in water (typically created when glaciers reach the sea) — can be dangerous if struck by a ship when underway. Icebergs have been responsible for the sinking of many ships, the most famous probably being the Titanic.

For aircraft, ice can cause a number of dangers. As an aircraft climbs, it passes through air layers of different temperature and humidity, some of which may be conducive to ice formation. If ice forms on the wings or control surfaces, this may adversely affect the flying qualities of the aircraft. During the first non-stop flight of the Atlantic, the British aviators Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown encountered such icing conditions – Brown left the cockpit and climbed onto the wing several times to remove ice which was covering the engine air intakes of the Vickers Vimy aircraft they were flying.

A particular icing vulnerability associated with reciprocating internal combustion engines is the carburetor. As air is sucked through the carburetor into the engine, the local air pressure is lowered, which causes adiabatic cooling. So, in humid near-freezing conditions, the carburetor will be colder, and tend to ice up. This will block the supply of air to the engine, and cause it to fail. For this reason, aircraft reciprocating engines with carburetors are provided with carburetor air intake heaters. The increasing use of fuel injection—which does not require carburetors—has made "carb icing" less of an issue for reciprocating engines.

Jet engines do not experience carb icing, but recent evidence indicates that they can be slowed, stopped, or damaged by internal icing in certain types of atmospheric conditions much more easily than previously believed. In most cases, the engines can be quickly restarted and flights are not endangered, but research continues to determine the exact conditions which produce this type of icing, and find the best methods to prevent, or reverse it, in flight.

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    In vain produced, all rays return;
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    Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882)