November 15, 2007: “The ablation of icebergs and ice shelves"

Andrew Wells, Institute of Theoretical Geophysics, DAMTP, University of Cambridge


The ablation rates of the submerged parts of icebergs and ice shelves depend on the heat transfer from the neighbouring fluid. Buoyancy driven flow can be generated when ice is in contact with water, and this flow modifies the heat transfer characteristics. Such flows are responsible for the generation of ice shelf water plumes. We consider a theoretical model for buoyancy driven flow in the boundary layer next to a heated or cooled surface. We predict changes in heat transfer as the flow develops downstream, from laminar flow through two distinct turbulent flow regimes. The final turbulent regime, relevant to geophysical scale flows, is then applied to provide a simple model of iceberg ablation in salty water.