Tuesday, 12 October 2004 - 3:05 PM

This presentation is part of : Torquato Symposium

Fluid permeability in sea ice

Kenneth M. Golden, University of Utah, University of Utah, Department of Mathematics, Salt Lake City, UT 84112

The transport of brine carrying salt, heat, and nutrients through sea ice facilitates a wide range of geophysical, oceanographic, and biological processes. However, measurements of the fluid permeability of sea ice are sparse and little is known theoretically. The brine microstructure exhibits a marked transition in macroscopic connectedness at a critical value of the brine volume fraction of about 5%, called the percolation threshold. Above the threshold, the rapid rise of the permeability can be characterized by a critical exponent e and a scaling factor. In general, e can take a range of values in the continuum, depending on the microstructure. Recently we have used continuum percolation theory to find that for sea ice e = 2, the universal exponent for lattices, and critical path analysis to estimate the scaling factor. While measurements of the permeability taken on Arctic sea ice in-situ naturally have considerable scatter, our theoretical calculations closely capture the data's scale and trend. A statistical best fit of our data in logarithmic variables matches the theory to within a relative error of 4%. We also consider a class of self-similar models which predict power law behavior of the permeability over all volume fractions, matching field data sets to within 3%. Recently there has been speculation about the existence of life in the sea ice crust of Europa, perhaps similar to algal and bacterial communities in polar sea ice on Earth. Our findings provide a framework for the analysis of fluid transport problems in sea ice, wherever it occurs.

Back to Torquato Symposium
Back to SES Abstracts

Back to The 41st Annual SES Technical Meeting