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The effect of a salinity gradient on the dissolution of a vertical ice face

  • Craig D. McConnochie (a1) and Ross C. Kerr (a1)


We investigate experimentally the effect of stratification on a vertical ice face dissolving into cold salty water. We measure the interface temperature, ablation velocity and turbulent plume velocity over a range of salinity gradients and compare our measurements with results of similar experiments without a salinity gradient (Kerr & McConnochie, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 765, 2015, pp. 211–228; McConnochie & Kerr, J. Fluid Mech., vol. 787, 2016, pp. 237–253). We observe that stratification acts to reduce the ablation velocity, interface temperature, plume velocity and plume acceleration. We define a stratification parameter, $S=N^{2}Q/{\it\Phi}_{o}$ , that describes where stratification will be important, where $N$ is the Brunt–Väisälä frequency, $Q$ is the height-dependent plume volume flux and ${\it\Phi}_{o}$ is the buoyancy flux per unit area without stratification. The relevance of this stratification parameter is supported by our experiments, which deviate from the homogeneous theory at approximately $S=1$ . Finally, we calculate values for the stratification parameter at a number of ice shelves and conclude that ocean stratification will have a significant effect on the dissolution of both the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets.


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