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Numerical Simulations of Melt-Driven Double-Diffusive Fluxes in a Turbulent Boundary Layer beneath an Ice Shelf

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  • 1 Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 2 British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, United Kingdom
  • 3 Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Abstract

The transport of heat and salt through turbulent ice shelf–ocean boundary layers is a large source of uncertainty within ocean models of ice shelf cavities. This study uses small-scale, high-resolution, 3D numerical simulations to model an idealized boundary layer beneath a melting ice shelf to investigate the influence of ambient turbulence on double-diffusive convection (i.e., convection driven by the difference in diffusivities between salinity and temperature). Isotropic turbulence is forced throughout the simulations and the temperature and salinity are initialized with homogeneous values similar to observations. The initial temperature and the strength of forced turbulence are varied as controlling parameters within an oceanographically relevant parameter space. Two contrasting regimes are identified. In one regime double-diffusive convection dominates, and in the other convection is inhibited by the forced turbulence. The convective regime occurs for high temperatures and low turbulence levels, where it is long lived and affects the flow, melt rate, and melt pattern. A criterion for identifying convection in terms of the temperature and salinity profiles, and the turbulent dissipation rate, is proposed. This criterion may be applied to observations and theoretical models to quantify the effect of double-diffusive convection on ice shelf melt rates.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: John Taylor, j.r.taylor@damtp.cam.ac.uk

Abstract

The transport of heat and salt through turbulent ice shelf–ocean boundary layers is a large source of uncertainty within ocean models of ice shelf cavities. This study uses small-scale, high-resolution, 3D numerical simulations to model an idealized boundary layer beneath a melting ice shelf to investigate the influence of ambient turbulence on double-diffusive convection (i.e., convection driven by the difference in diffusivities between salinity and temperature). Isotropic turbulence is forced throughout the simulations and the temperature and salinity are initialized with homogeneous values similar to observations. The initial temperature and the strength of forced turbulence are varied as controlling parameters within an oceanographically relevant parameter space. Two contrasting regimes are identified. In one regime double-diffusive convection dominates, and in the other convection is inhibited by the forced turbulence. The convective regime occurs for high temperatures and low turbulence levels, where it is long lived and affects the flow, melt rate, and melt pattern. A criterion for identifying convection in terms of the temperature and salinity profiles, and the turbulent dissipation rate, is proposed. This criterion may be applied to observations and theoretical models to quantify the effect of double-diffusive convection on ice shelf melt rates.

© 2021 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: John Taylor, j.r.taylor@damtp.cam.ac.uk
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