Modelling sea ice growth

Mark J McGuinness


The freezing of water to ice is a classic problem in applied mathematics, involving the solution of a diffusion equation with a moving boundary. However, when the water is salty, the transport of salt rejected by ice introduces some interesting twists to the tale.
A number of analytic models for the freezing of water are briefly reviewed, ranging from the famous work by Neumann and Stefan in the 1800s, to the mushy zone models coming out of Cambridge and Oxford since the 1980s. The successes and limitations of these models and remaining modelling issues, are considered in the case of freezing seawater in the Arctic and Antarctic Oceans. A new, simple model which includes turbulent transport of heat and salt between ice and ocean is introduced and solved analytically, in two different cases—one that turbulence is given by a constant friction velocity, and the other that turbulence is buoyancy-driven and hence depends on ice thickness. Salt is found to play an important role, lowering interface temperatures, increasing oceanic heat flux, and slowing ice growth.



Stefan problem, freezing brine, salt transport, modelling sea ice


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ANZIAM Journal, ISSN 1446-8735, copyright Australian Mathematical Society.