Two-dimensional Numerical Simulations of Mixing under Ice Keels
Abstract. Changes in sea ice conditions directly impact the way the wind transfers energy to the Arctic Ocean. The thinning and increasing mobility of sea ice is expected to change the size and speed of ridges on the underside of ice floes, called ice keels, which cause turbulence and impact upper-ocean stratification. However, the effects of changing ice keel characteristics on below-ice mixing are difficult to determine from sparse observations and have not been directly investigated in numerical or laboratory experiments. Here, for the first time, we examine how the size and speed of an ice keel affect the mixing of various upper-ocean stratifications using 16 two-dimensional numerical simulations of a keel moving through a two-layer flow. We find that the irreversible ocean mixing and the characteristic depth over which mixing occurs each vary significantly across a realistic parameter space of keel sizes, keel speeds, and ocean stratifications. Furthermore, we find that mixing does not increase monotonically with ice keel depth and speed, but instead depends on the emergence and propagation of vortices and turbulence. These results suggest that changes to ice keel speed and depth may have a significant impact on below-ice mixing across the Arctic Ocean, and highlight the need for more realistic numerical simulations and observational estimates of ice keel characteristics.
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