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Mathematics Of Ice To Aid Global Warming Forecasts

ScienceDaily – September 11, 2007

Once again, I am impressed that our body of knowledge regarding our world is increasing. I also wonder at how someone can say that we understand all of this well enough to use climate models that are based on 1970s and 1980s technology and assumptions.

This short article discusses how sea ice melts and what happens to it as it moves through the ice and the sea. Understanding the mathematics of this is incredibly important for analysis and prediction of how Earth responds to changing climates.

University of Utah mathematicians have arrived at a new understanding of how salt-saturated ocean water flows through sea ice — a discovery that promises to improve forecasts of how global warming will affect polar icepacks.


“It means that almost the exact same formulas describing how water flows through sedimentary rocks in the Earth’s crust apply to brine flow in sea ice, even though the microstructural details of the rocks are quite different from sea ice,” says Golden, who currently is on an Australian research ship in Antarctica.


The AGU says Golden’s study presents “a unified picture of sea ice permeability,” and how that permeability to brine flow varies with the temperature and salinity of the ice.


“One of the most important aspects of the polar sea ice packs is the role they play in Earth’s albedo — whether Earth absorbs or reflects incoming solar radiation,” says Golden. “White sea ice reflects; the ocean absorbs. In the late spring, melt ponds [atop the ice] critically affect the albedo of the polar ice packs. The drainage of these melt ponds is again largely controlled by the permeability of the ice.”

You can read the entire article here.

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