Asymptotic analysis of subglacial plumes in stratified environments

Alexander T. Bradley*, C. Rosie Williams, Adrian Jenkins, Robert Arthern

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
14 Downloads (Pure)


Accurate predictions of basal melt rates on ice shelves are necessary for precise projections of the future behaviour of ice sheets. The computational expense associated with completely resolving the cavity circulation using an ocean model makes this approach unfeasible for multi-century simulations, and parametrizations of melt rates are required. At present, some of the most advanced melt rate parametrizations are based on a one-dimensional approximation to the melt rate that emerges from the theory of subglacial plumes applied to ice shelves with constant basal slopes and uniform ambient ocean conditions; in this work, we present an asymptotic analysis of the corresponding equations in which non-constant basal slopes and typical ambient conditions are imposed. This analysis exploits the small aspect ratio of ice shelf bases, the relatively weak thermal driving and the relative slenderness of the region separating warm, salty water at depth and cold, fresh water at the surface in the ambient ocean. We construct an approximation to the melt rate that is based on this analysis, which shows good agreement with numerical solutions in a wide variety of cases, suggesting a path towards improved predictions of basal melt rates in ice-sheet models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20210846
Number of pages28
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society A: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences
Issue number2259
Early online date9 Mar 2022
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2022


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