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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-288
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2020-288
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  16 Oct 2020

16 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

An X-ray micro-tomographic study of the pore space, permeability and percolation threshold of young sea ice

Sönke Maus1, Martin Schneebeli2, and Andreas Wiegmann3 Sönke Maus et al.
  • 1Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, NTNU, Trondheim, Norway
  • 2WSL Swiss Federal Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, Davos, Switzerland
  • 3Math2Market GmbH, Kaiserslautern, Germany

Abstract. The hydraulic permeability of sea ice is an important property that influences the role of sea ice in the environment in many ways. As it is difficult to measure, so far not many observations exist and the quality of deduced empirical relationships between porosity and permeability is unknown. The present work presents a study of the permeability of young sea ice based on the combination of X-ray tomographic imaging and direct numerical simulations. The approach is new for sea ice. It allows to relate the permeability and percolation properties explicitly to characteristic properties of the sea ice pore space, in particular to pore size and connectivity metrics. For the young ice from the present field study we obtain a brine volume of 2.4 ± 0.3 % as threshold for the vertical permeability (transition to impermeable sea ice). We are able to relate this transition to the necking of brine pores at a critical pore throat diameter of ≈ 0.07 mm, being consistent with some limited pore analysis from earlier studies. The obtained critical brine porosity is considerably smaller than the value of 5 % proposed in earlier work and frequently adopted in sea ice model studies and applications. We revise the uncertainties associated with earlier estimates suggesting that the present result is more accurate. We then propose a consistent parametrisation for the permeability of young sea ice that will be useful for modelling. The study highlights the large potential of X-ray tomography, in combination with appropriate sampling, storage and processing, to derive physical properties of sea ice.

Sönke Maus et al.

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Short summary
As the hydraulic permeability of sea ice is difficult to measure, observations are sparse. The present work presents numerical simulations of the permeability of young sea ice based on a large set of 3D X-ray tomographic images. It extends the so far available relationship between permeability and porosity down to brine porosities near the percolation threshold of a few percent. Evaluation of pore scales and 3D connectivity provides novel insight into the percolation behaviour of sea ice.
As the hydraulic permeability of sea ice is difficult to measure, observations are sparse. The...
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