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Icy calculations on a hot topic
Date:9/10/2007

ng solar radiation, says Golden. White sea ice reflects; the ocean absorbs. In the late spring, melt ponds [atop the ice] critically affect the albedo of the polar ice packs. The drainage of these melt ponds is again largely controlled by the permeability of the ice.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Changes predictions that the summer Arctic ice pack may disappear sometime during 2050-2100 depend in part on these types of considerations, he adds. Now that we have a much firmer understanding of how permeability depends on the variables of sea ice, namely temperature and salinity, our results can help to provide more realistic representations of sea ice in global climate models, helping to hone the predictions for world climate and the effects of warming.

The results can also help in understanding how polar ecosystems respond to climate change, Golden says. Biological processes in the polar regions depend on brine flow through sea ice. For example, the rich food webs in the polar oceans are based on algae and bacteria living in the ice, and their nutrient intake is controlled by brine flow.

In the Antarctic, ice formed from flooding of ice surfaces is an important component of the ice pack, and this formation is dependent on brine flow, he adds. Brine drainage out of sea ice and the subsequent formation of Antarctic bottom water is an important part of the worlds oceans.

Golden says the formulas that describe brine flow through sea ice and groundwater flow through sediments arose from abstract solid-state physics models used to describe atomic-scale phenomena in metals.

These formulas exhibit universality, meaning that the end result doesn't depend on the details of the model or system, only on the dimension of the system, he says. While large classes of abstract models obey this principle, real materials often do not. So it is surprising that a complex, real material like sea ice actually obeys these formulas.<
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Contact: Lee Siegel
leesiegel@ucomm.utah.edu
801-581-8993
University of Utah
Source:Eurekalert

Page: 1 2 3

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