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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 5, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 5, 989-1009, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-5-989-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
The Cryosphere, 5, 989-1009, 2011
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-5-989-2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Review article 14 Nov 2011

Review article | 14 Nov 2011

The multiphase physics of sea ice: a review for model developers

E. C. Hunke1, D. Notz2, A. K. Turner1, and M. Vancoppenolle3 E. C. Hunke et al.
  • 1Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA
  • 2Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany
  • 3Georges Lemaître Centre for Earth and Climate Research, Université Catholique de Louvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium

Abstract. Rather than being solid throughout, sea ice contains liquid brine inclusions, solid salts, microalgae, trace elements, gases, and other impurities which all exist in the interstices of a porous, solid ice matrix. This multiphase structure of sea ice arises from the fact that the salt that exists in seawater cannot be incorporated into lattice sites in the pure ice component of sea ice, but remains in liquid solution. Depending on the ice permeability (determined by temperature, salinity and gas content), this brine can drain from the ice, taking other sea ice constituents with it. Thus, sea ice salinity and microstructure are tightly interconnected and play a significant role in polar ecosystems and climate. As large-scale climate modeling efforts move toward "earth system" simulations that include biological and chemical cycles, renewed interest in the multiphase physics of sea ice has strengthened research initiatives to observe, understand and model this complex system. This review article provides an overview of these efforts, highlighting known difficulties and requisite observations for further progress in the field. We focus on mushy layer theory, which describes general multiphase materials, and on numerical approaches now being explored to model the multiphase evolution of sea ice and its interaction with chemical, biological and climate systems.

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