Tracer measurements in growing sea ice support convective gravity drainage parameterizations

M. Thomas, M. Vancoppenolle, J.l. France, W. T. Sturges, D. C. E. Bakker, J. Kaiser, R. von Glasow

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Gravity drainage is the dominant process redistributing solutes in growing sea ice. Modeling gravity drainage is therefore necessary to predict physical and biogeochemical variables in sea ice. We evaluate seven gravity drainage parameterizations, spanning the range of approaches in the literature, using tracer measurements in a sea ice growth experiment. Artificial sea ice is grown to around 17 cm thickness in a new experimental facility, the Roland von Glasow air‐sea‐ice chamber. We use NaCl (present in the water initially) and rhodamine (injected into the water after 10 cm of sea ice growth) as independent tracers of brine dynamics. We measure vertical profiles of bulk salinity in situ, as well as bulk salinity and rhodamine in discrete samples taken at the end of the experiment. Convective parameterizations that diagnose gravity drainage using Rayleigh numbers outperform a simpler convective parameterization and diffusive parameterizations when compared to observations. This study is the first to numerically model solutes decoupled from salinity using convective gravity drainage parameterizations. Our results show that (1) convective, Rayleigh number‐based parameterizations are our most accurate and precise tool for predicting sea ice bulk salinity; and (2) these parameterizations can be generalized to brine dynamics parameterizations, and hence can predict the dynamics of any solute in growing sea ice
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2019JC015791
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Oceans
Issue number2
Early online date22 Jan 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020


  • convection
  • gravity drainage
  • laboratory
  • modeling
  • sea ice

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