Arctic sea ice patterns recorded by an Alaska scientist made it to the catwalk earlier this month in New York, blending High Arctic climate change with high fashion.
Clothing designed by Barcelona-based designer Corentin Daudigny and displayed at New York’s Sept. 8-13 Fashion Week showed the colors and patterns captured by Marc Oggier of the University of Alaska Fairbanks during his tour on a long-term research expedition to the High Arctic.
Oggier, a postdoctoral fellow with UAF’s International Arctic Research Center, collected the images when he was participating in the international Multidisciplinary Drifting Observatory for the Study of Arctic Climate, or MOSAiC. The biggest polar expedition in history, it drew scientists from 20 countries and sent a German icebreaker, the Polarstern, into the Arctic pack ice for a full year starting in 2019. Oggier’s assignment, during the months when he was aboard, was to collect cross sections of ice and record their structures.
The patterns he recorded show the sea ice’s age. When it is new, forming in sometimes turbulent seas, its crystals are granular and pointed in various directions. When polarizing light shines upon that new and brittle ice, the resulting images are multicolored speckles.As freeze becomes deeper and longer, ice crystals push downward, becoming more elongated as they head in the same direction – and monochromatic, he said.
Using the different patterns on the fabric used to make fashionable clothing offers a new way to explain Arctic climate change, Oggier said.
“By bringing the sea ice texture to fashion, I hope it is going to show a completely different imagery of the Arctic, full of color,” he said by email.
The resulting flowing garments designed by Daudigny are in what is called the Sea Ice Collection, part of an initiative called Project Sea Ice.
The idea to blend science and fashion came from a chance encounter at an airport in France. Daudigny saw one of Oggier’ s collaborators, Amy Lauren, using her laptop computer to examine the ice patterns. Lauren is an artist and documentary filmmaker who traveled with Oggier on the Polarstern, as well as on a 2021 expedition.
The display at Fashion Week was timely. After each melt season, Arctic sea ice hits its annual minimum each September.
This year’s minimum, though yet to be officially declared, appears to be a lock for the sixth-lowest extent in the four-decade satellite record, according to information from the National Snow and Ice Data Center.
Extent is defined as the area where there is at least 15% ice cover. Extent as of Sunday was 4.239 million square kilometers, 25% above the record-low minimum of 3.59 million square kilometers hit in 2012 but 33% below the 1981-2010 average for this time of year, according to the center.
Ice extent and volume has dwindled over the decades, a result of climate change and part of a feedback loop that accelerates warming in the Arctic.
It has also changed substantially in composition. Old ice that had lasted at least four full years comprised about a third of the ice pack in the mid- and late-1980s but now comprises only a tiny fraction now, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. First-year ice – that which freezes seasonally and is less than a year old – now comprises about 60% or more of the pack, compared to the 1980s, when it comprised only a third of the pack.
That indicates that more of the ice will show multicolor images when it is illuminated with polarizing light, as Oggier did during his MOSAiC tour.
The colors illuminated in the ice sections he collected during the MOSAiC expedition contrasted with the dark polar night outside, he said. He set the scene: “Outside of the boat, you peer into darkness. The only white you see is the few meters ahead of your headlight. And then, in the silence of the lab, we were working in a world of colors,” he said by email.
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