Scale Models for Museums – Ice Core
The great thing about being a model maker is that you never know what challenges the next project will bring. I live in Boulder CO, the location of NCAR, UCAR, NOAA, NIST and many other federal letters. The National Center for Atmospheric Research has offices in one the most distinguished (architect I. M. Pei) buildings in my town. Overlooking Boulder, sitting on a mesa against a backdrop of the dramatic mountains NCAR is a serious research facility dealing with the worlds climate. The also house a newly revised visitors center with many interactive and informational displays. We were commissioned by NCAR to construct a model of an ice core to be illuminated and placed in this visitors center.
ICE CORE: These are cylinders of ice mined in various locations from Greenland to the Arctic. The deeper the core sample the farther back in time the ice was formed. The bubbles in the ice still contain the atmospheric elements that were present during that ancient time to the core becomes a record of how our atmosphere formed and has evolved over the millennia.
In learning about the ice cores we visited the Denver Federal Center were many cores are brought for study. This is a lab that is kept at – 27 degrees Fahrenheit. The scientist work all day wearing protective clothing to keep from freezing. I asked a lot of questions and learned a lot about ice cores and how they look.
Building the models. We ended up building two identical full sized cores that matched a section of an actual ice core for scientific accuracy. Using clear acrylic tubes I poured clear resin in over 120 layers to match the image. I used experimented enough to create a chart showing how much stirring, how much resting and how much gel time was needed to match all the different bubble densities. A relatively clear layer along with a relatively cloudy layer of bubbles represents one year of ice build up. It took several weeks of pouring and curing the resin to get the core models built. One of them is now on display in the visitors center and has become a popular draw for tourists. The second one is used in the classroom and in scientific discussions about the cores themselves.