Melting and fragmentation laws from the evolution of two large Southern Ocean icebergs estimated from satellite data

Bouhier, Nicolas; Tournadre, Jean; Rémy, Frédérique; Gourves-Cousin, Rozenn

The evolution of the thickness and area of two large Southern Ocean icebergs that have drifted in open water for more than a year is estimated through the combined analysis of altimeter data and visible satellite images. The observed thickness evolution is compared with iceberg melting predictions from two commonly used melting formulations, allowing us to test their validity for large icebergs. The first formulation, based on a fluid dynamics approach, tends to underestimate basal melt rates, while the second formulation, which considers the thermodynamic budget, appears more consistent with observations. Fragmentation is more important than melting for the decay of large icebergs. Despite its importance, fragmentation remains poorly documented. The correlation between the observed volume loss of our two icebergs and environmental parameters highlights factors most likely to promote fragmentation. Using this information, a bulk model of fragmentation is established that depends on ocean temperature and iceberg velocity. The model is effective at reproducing observed volume variations. The size distribution of the calved pieces is estimated using both altimeter data and visible images and is found to be consistent with previous results and typical of brittle fragmentation processes. These results are valuable in accounting for the freshwater flux constrained by large icebergs in models.

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Bouhier, Nicolas / Tournadre, Jean / Rémy, Frédérique / et al: Melting and fragmentation laws from the evolution of two large Southern Ocean icebergs estimated from satellite data. 2018. Copernicus Publications.

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