This winter, flowers bloomed in the northern Canadian city of Winnipeg. But not the verdant blooms that might come to mind; these were frost flowers.
The University of Manitoba opened a sea ice simulator last year to see how ice forms on the open water of the frigid poles, and how it affects the local climate and plant life.
The $1.5 million Canadian ($1.46 million USD) Sea-ice Environmental Research Facility's 30-foot-long (9 meters) pool - the centerpiece of the project - is where the researchers sprinkle salt, water and environmental contaminants, then watch how the sea ice grows.
The facility runs during the winter, when the outdoor temperature is below 28.9 Fahrenheit (minus 1.7 degrees Celsius), the temperature at which ice forms.
"The real beauty is we can add (chemical or biological) tracers to it and use the sensors to monitor it in real time," said Feiyue Wang, an environmental chemist who leads the facility.
"As an experimental scientist, I always like to do control experiments. What if we hold some variables constant? What if we change them? You can't do that in the Arctic," Wang told OurAmazingPlanet.