The Experimental Permafrost Laboratory (EPL) in the Department of Earth & Environment houses a state-of-the-art cold-room environmental chamber capable of recreating the ultra-low humidity and temperature conditions found in the coldest regions of Antarctica. The chamber, an ESPEC Platinous series ESX-3CA, is capable of varying environmental conditions over hourly, seasonal, and annual time scales through touchscreen and remote programming. The chamber runs off a dedicated circuit and utilizes ultra-pure compressed air from an SF-8 Atlas Co. compressor.

Current projects utilizing the facility include experimental analyses of the rates of ice sublimation as a function of superposed salts, sediment, and rocks under various scenarios of atmospheric temperature and relative humidity. Another project seeks to document the role of thermal fatigue, a process which produces micro-fractures along rock surfaces associated with high-frequency temperature oscillations, in mechanical weathering over a variety of time scales and rock types.

Field equipment supporting the objectives of the EPL include a GSSI SIR 3000 Ground Penetrating Radar with 400, 200 and 80-40 (MLF) MHz antenna’s designed to measure the thickness and internal structure of buried-ice deposits in high-latitude regions. In addition, the facility maintains an array of more than 100 data loggers (Onsett Computer Co., HOBO), many of which are currently deployed in Antarctica, with linked sensors to measure solar radiation, atmospheric temperature and RH, atmospheric pressure, soil moisture and soil temperature, rock-surface temperature, and wind speed/direction.

For further information, contact laboratory manager Dr. Joel Sparks.