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Modelling Antarctic Fast-Ice Growth

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An existing thermodynamic ice-growth model (Semtner, 1976) has been tested for its ability to predict the growth of fast ice in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica. Significant discrepancies between observed and predicted ice thicknesses were found to occur, primarily due to the presence of sub-ice platelets and the formation of a snow-ice layer. Although these ice-growth processes are not well enough understood to permit rigorous physical modelling, it is shown that fairly simple modifications to the model greatly improve the accuracy of the thickness predictions, and serve to highlight the importance of these processes in the Antarctic fast-ice environment. Surface flooding and snow-ice formation are assumed to occur immediately upon the establishment of a positive hydrostatic water level, and a surface temperature in excess of a critical value, above which interconnecting channels in the ice matrix permit the flow of water to the surface. The presence of the sub-ice platelet layer is assumed to increase columnar ice growth at a rate proportional to the volume fraction of ice in the platelet layer, a simple technique but one that permits estimates of platelet-enhanced growth without detailed knowledge of oceanographic conditions. The resulting model predictions are in close agreement with measurements of fast-ice growth and decay in McMurdo Sound; however, data suitable for testing the model over a complete range of conditions and over multi-year cycles are not available at the present time.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, Cambridge CB2 1ER, England)

Publication date: 1989-01-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.

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