UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Effect of structural porosity on the ablation of sea ice ridges Amundrud, Trisha L.; Melling, Mumfrey; Ingram, R. Grant; Allen, Susan E.


Observations reveal that the decrease in ice thickness through melting in summer is much more rapid for ridges than for surrounding level ice. A physical model that represents internal melting within ridge keels has been developed to explain this observed draft-dependent ablation for first-year pack ice in the Beaufort Sea. The porous structure of a ridge keel permits percolation of a substantial fraction of the oncoming oceanic flow, up to 20% for a feature with 30% porosity and 9-m draft. The percolating flow delivers oceanic heat to a large surface area deep within the keel and increases melt rates relative to surrounding level ice by a factor of 5 when seawater temperatures are 0.18 degrees above freezing. Melt rates are sensitive to the internal geometry of ridges through keel porosity and block dimensions, characteristics that vary widely between ridge features. However, the average rate of melting as a function of draft, calculated for a realistic population of keels with average cross-sectional shape and differing draft, has the same draft-dependence as the observations. This concurrence suggests that the process of internal melting may be dominant in the ablation of ridged ice. In addition, internal melting during the summer may well hasten structural consolidation of surviving ridge keels through freezing during the following winter. It appears that the evolution of the thickest ice within the Arctic ice pack is dependent on the small-scale structural characteristics of the ridged ice and its interaction with the upper layer of the ocean. An edited version of this paper was published by AGU. Copyright 2006 American Geophysical Union.

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