Floe-size distributions in laboratory ice broken by waves
Abstract. This paper presents the analysis of floe-size distribution (FSD) data obtained in laboratory experiments of ice breaking by waves. The experiments, performed at the Large Ice Model Basin (LIMB) of the Hamburg Ship Model Basin (Hamburgische Schiffbau-Versuchsanstalt, HSVA), consisted of a number of tests in which an initially continuous, uniform ice sheet was broken by regular waves with prescribed characteristics. The floes' characteristics (surface area; minor and major axis, and orientation of equivalent ellipse) were obtained from digital images of the ice sheets after five tests. The analysis shows that although the floe sizes cover a wide range of values (up to 5 orders of magnitude in the case of floe surface area), their probability density functions (PDFs) do not have heavy tails, but exhibit a clear cut-off at large floe sizes. Moreover, the PDFs have a maximum that can be attributed to wave-induced flexural strain, producing preferred floe sizes. It is demonstrated that the observed FSD data can be described by theoretical PDFs expressed as a weighted sum of two components, a tapered power law and a Gaussian, reflecting multiple fracture mechanisms contributing to the FSD as it evolves in time. The results are discussed in the context of theoretical and numerical research on fragmentation of sea ice and other brittle materials.