A model of ice shelf-ocean interaction with application to the Filcher-Ronne and Ross Ice Shelves


  • Ole Anders Nøst,

  • Arne Foldvik


A simple analytical model has been developed to study the formation of Ice Shelf Water (ISW). ISW is assumed to flow as a buoyancy-driven layer underneath the ice shelf. A relation between potential temperature and salinity in the ISW layer is calculated from the mass and energy balance. This temperature-salinity relation is shown to depend only on the temperature and the salinity of the source water mass and to be practically independent of entrainment and melt rates. The model results are obtained without making any assumptions about entrainment and melt rates. The model is in good agreement with observations under the Ronne Ice Shelf, and it indicates that ISW in the Filchner Depression is formed from Western Shelf Water (WSW) with salinity higher than 34.75 practical salinity units. Such high-salinity water is only observed in the Ronne Depression in the western part of the continental shelf. This implies a circulation of WSW, under the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf, from the Ronne Depression into the Filchner Depression. Similarly, the model shows that the ISW observed under J9 at the Ross Ice Shelf has been formed from Low Salinity Shelf Water (LSSW) from the eastern parts of the Ross Sea continental shelf. LSSW must therefore circulate under the eastern parts of the Ross Ice Shelf.