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A network model for fluid transport through sea ice

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The flow of liquid through porous sea ice is a fundamental process affecting problems in polar biology, oceanography and geophysics. The geometry and connectedness of the pore microstructure of sea ice determine its fluid permeability, which depends strongly on temperature. Here we analyze a simple pipe network as a basis for modeling fluid flow through the complex porous microstructure, and for numerical approximations of the fluid permeability of sea ice as a function of temperature. For slow flow the fluid system is equivalent to an electrical resistor network, and the network is solved using a fast multi-grid method. The radii of the pipes in the network are chosen randomly from distributions describing measured cross-sectional areas of brine inclusions in sea ice. At this stage, the model reflects only the most general features of brine microstructure and its evolution with temperature. Preliminary results for a basic implementation in two dimensions are presented. They are consistent with theoretical bounds on the vertical fluid permeability of sea ice found recently. Moreover, the results agree roughly with laboratory data for higher porosities. For lower porosities and colder temperatures, the fully connected network of pipes in the model, albeit with smaller radii, overestimates observed values. This finding provides evidence that the brine network becomes more disconnected with lower temperatures, which is consistent with transitional behavior near a percolation threshold.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: November 1, 2006

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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