This project aims to better understand the fluid dynamics associated with the melting of sea ice. During the summer months, melt ponds form on the surface of sea ice. These melt ponds have a significant effect on the albedo of the sea ice, which, in turn, affects the overall energy balance of the arctic.
As a result, melt ponds play a role of some importance in the Earth’s climate and by improving our understanding of them we can also improve our understanding of related climatic effects, e.g. when the arctic may become ice-free in summer. The main goal of this project is to understand the lifecycle of melt ponds. Previous observations in the arctic (https://doi.org/10.1029/2011JC007231) suggest that after melt ponds accumulate, rapid drainage occurs primarily through two means – through macroscopic flaws in the ice (e.g. cracks and seal holes) and then as percolation through the ice which, upon starting to melt, acts like a porous medium. This project will involve developing mathematical models (e.g. continuous two-phase flow models, building on previous work in the field by David Rees Jones: http://www-vortex.mcs.st-andrews.ac.uk/~dwrj1/publication/2013-jfm/) to examine these methods of drainage in conjunction with numerical as well as theoretical work. Other aspects of melt pond physics that may be examined include melt pond surface hydrology (building on previous work on the hydrological modelling of rivers by David Dritschel) and the interaction between meltwater and snow.