Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Icebergs: Mathematical model calculates the collapse of shelf ice

24.08.2017

Shelf ice, as found in Antarctica, refers to giant floating ice sheets that can span thousands of square kilometres. Pieces break off at their edges which form icebergs in the ocean. In order to more effectively predict these break-offs, in a process known as calving, Julia Christmann from the University of Kaiserslautern (TU) has developed mathematical models in cooperation with the Alfred Wegener Institute, Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research (AWI). On the basis of physical factors, it is claimed that these models can be used to predict when and where the ice may collapse. This is important particularly for research teams situated on the ice shelf.

The ice rises up like a sheer cliff face – shelf ice is not only several thousand square kilometres large, it is also more than a hundred metres high in many places. From time to time, pieces break off the edge and crash into the sea below, where they float away in the ocean as icebergs. This was also recently the case with the Larsen C ice shelf.


Julia Christmann in front of the icebreakter "Polarstern" in the Antarctica

Credit: Julia Christmann


Julia Christmann

Credit: Thomas Koziel

Science is unable to accurately predict when and where the ice shelf will break. “Assumptions were always previously based on observations by glaciologists and other researchers. Concrete calculations with physical parameters did not exist,” says Julia Christmann, who is researching technical mechanics at the University of Kaiserslautern with Professor Dr Ralf Müller. As a rule of thumb, she explains, the ice tends to break where it is thinner than 200 metres; in reality, however, there are also many ice shelves that are even thinner.

The calving of ice sheets is a continuous process that is influenced by a number of different factors. Satellite data was also used in order to observe this natural spectacle. “However, they only offer snapshots of the process,” Christmann adds. As part of her doctorate research, she has developed mathematical models to calculate when and where the ice shelf may collapse. A range of different physical factors are germane here.

“The thickness and density of ice can play an important role, for example,” Christmann continues. “The material parameters are also critical, including elastic factors. These mainly influence where the iceberg is calved. There is also the viscosity, which affects the time between break-off events.”

The doctoral student at Kaiserslautern was also supported in her work by Professor Dr Angelika Humbert from the AWI. Humbert is an expert in the field of glaciology. She is also occupied with the properties and motion of giant ice sheets on the Antarctic continent, which constitute 70 percent of the entire supply of freshwater on the planet.

“The ice shelf generally breaks at points that are between a half and full thickness of the ice sheet from the edge,” summarises Christmann. This data may be particularly important for the scientific community, since numerous research stations are located on ice shelves in Antarctica. This includes the German Neumayer Station III or the British station, Halley VI, which was closed for winter this year due to a crack in the ice.

Christmann recently completed her doctoral thesis. She is continuing her research on the properties of ice. She is now focusing on grounding lines in Greenland. This refers to the area in which the ice still touches the ground and merges into floating shelf ice. The researcher intends to find out how these lines change over the course of time.

For enquiries:
Dr Julia Christmann
Technical Mechanics
TU Kaiserslautern
Tel.: 0631 205-2126
Email: jchristm[at]rhrk.uni-kl.de

Melanie Löw | Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Further information:
http://www.uni-kl.de

More articles from Earth Sciences:

nachricht The pace at which the world’s permafrost soils are warming
16.01.2019 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

nachricht Using satellites to measure rates of ice mass loss in glaciers
16.01.2019 | Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg

All articles from Earth Sciences >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Flying Optical Cats for Quantum Communication

Dead and alive at the same time? Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics have implemented Erwin Schrödinger’s paradoxical gedanken experiment employing an entangled atom-light state.

In 1935 Erwin Schrödinger formulated a thought experiment designed to capture the paradoxical nature of quantum physics. The crucial element of this gedanken...

Im Focus: Nanocellulose for novel implants: Ears from the 3D-printer

Cellulose obtained from wood has amazing material properties. Empa researchers are now equipping the biodegradable material with additional functionalities to produce implants for cartilage diseases using 3D printing.

It all starts with an ear. Empa researcher Michael Hausmann removes the object shaped like a human ear from the 3D printer and explains:

Im Focus: Elucidating the Atomic Mechanism of Superlubricity

The phenomenon of so-called superlubricity is known, but so far the explanation at the atomic level has been missing: for example, how does extremely low friction occur in bearings? Researchers from the Fraunhofer Institutes IWM and IWS jointly deciphered a universal mechanism of superlubricity for certain diamond-like carbon layers in combination with organic lubricants. Based on this knowledge, it is now possible to formulate design rules for supra lubricating layer-lubricant combinations. The results are presented in an article in Nature Communications, volume 10.

One of the most important prerequisites for sustainable and environmentally friendly mobility is minimizing friction. Research and industry have been dedicated...

Im Focus: Mission completed – EU partners successfully test new technologies for space robots in Morocco

Just in time for Christmas, a Mars-analogue mission in Morocco, coordinated by the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) as part of the SRC project FACILITATORS, has been successfully completed. SRC, the Strategic Research Cluster on Space Robotics Technologies, is a program of the European Union to support research and development in space technologies. From mid-November to mid-December 2018, a team of more than 30 scientists from 11 countries tested technologies for future exploration of Mars and Moon in the desert of the Maghreb state.

Close to the border with Algeria, the Erfoud region in Morocco – known to tourists for its impressive sand dunes – offered ideal conditions for the four-week...

Im Focus: Programming light on a chip

Research opens doors in photonic quantum information processing, optical signal processing and microwave photonics

Researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have developed a new integrated photonics platform that can...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Our digital society in 2040

16.01.2019 | Event News

11th International Symposium: “Advanced Battery Power – Kraftwerk Batterie” Aachen, 3-4 April 2019

14.01.2019 | Event News

ICTM Conference 2019: Digitization emerges as an engineering trend for turbomachinery construction

12.12.2018 | Event News

 
Latest News

Artificially produced cells communicate with each other: Models of life

17.01.2019 | Life Sciences

Velcro for human cells

16.01.2019 | Life Sciences

Kiel physicists discover new effect in the interaction of plasmas with solids

16.01.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>