Modeling Ice Shelf Cavities and Tabular Icebergs Using Lagrangian Elements

Publication Year


Journal Article

Most ocean climate models do not represent ice shelf calving in a physically realistic way, even though the calving of icebergs is a major component of the mass balance for Antarctic ice shelves. The infrequency of large calving events together with the difficulty of placing observational instruments around icebergs means that little is known about how calving icebergs affect the ocean. In this study we present a novel model of an ice shelf coupled to an ocean circulation model, where the ice shelf is constructed of Lagrangian elements that allow simulation of iceberg calving. The Lagrangian ice shelf model is used to simulate the flow beneath a static idealized ice shelf, to verify that it can reproduce the results of an existing Eulerian model simulation with an identical configuration. The Lagrangian model is then used to simulate the ocean's response to a calved iceberg drifting away from the ice shelf. The results show how a calving event and subsequent iceberg drift affect the ocean. At the ice front, the calving event leads to a warming of the ocean surface and cooling of the water column at depth, allowing cooler waters to enter the ice shelf cavity, leading to reduced melt rates within the cavity. A Taylor column is observed below the iceberg, which moves with the iceberg as it drifts into the open ocean. As the iceberg drifts further from the ice shelf, the circulation within the ice shelf cavity tends toward a new steady state, consistent with the new ice shelf geometry.

Journal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Date Published
May 2019
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