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Seattle Is Putting a 10-Ton Ice Cube Outside to Melt

Stop by to watch it disappear, or maybe chip some flakes off for your gin and tonic.

Olson Kundig

Temperatures in Seattle are supposed to peak in the 70s on Friday, but anyone seeking a rapid cool-down can go to Occidental Square and hug a 10-ton ice cube plopped on the ground.

The frigid installation, made by local architects at Olson Kundig, will appear on Friday and quietly melt in the following days for the Seattle Design Festival. Though a similar artwork of glacier ice graced last year’s climate summit in Paris, the message here is not (explicitly) global warming. Rather, it’s about the never-ceasing migration of water from land to sea and back again—something the perennially misted city should know a lot about. The architects write:

ICE CUBE, a temporary installation designed by Olson Kundig, showcases the stages of the natural water cycle as the ice shifts from opaque to translucent. As the 10-ton ice cube evaporates and melts, it offers a cool respite to visitors and scatters ambient sunlight and colors throughout the park. The pure form of the cube will gradually erode in the summer sun, marking the passage of time as its waters slowly return to the sea.

Will pedestrians be tripping over this thing when it’s the size of a shoebox in October? That’s unknown. Cliff Mass, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Washington, thinks the rate of melting depends on many things—wind speed, cloud cover, transport of ground heat into the cube’s frozen heart, etc. People are speculating on Mass’ blog when the cube will be fully puddle-ized; dates range from a few days to this incredible prognostication from Dave Z:

It could last for quite sometime, if it’s placed in the shade and if the rains hold out until later in the fall. Think chunk of glacier or small iceberg. I’d say the sun and rain are key, or if black bodies attach to it like autumn leaves. I’d like to give Christmas Day the estimated date, but I’m tempted to move the melt date to much later time in the winter. So I will: March 16, [2017].

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.