PAOC Colloquium - Ian Eisenman (Univ. of California, San Diego)

Monday, September 17, 2018 - 12:00

Speaker: Ian Eisenman (Univ. of California, San Diego)

Title: Iceberg dynamics in modern and glacial oceans

Abstract: Icebergs released from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets drift in the modern high-latitude oceans, releasing meltwater as they go and capsizing when their shapes become unstable. The role that they play in the global ocean circulation and climate depends crucially on the iceberg drift trajectories, which often are interpreted using an empirical rule-of-thumb to account for the influence of winds and ocean currents. The flux of icebergs from Greenland and Antarctica has recently increased and is projected to further increase in the future, perhaps dramatically. This raises analogies to the Heinrich events of the last glacial period, when there were massive discharges of icebergs from the Laurentide Ice Sheet which are believed to have drifted enigmatically long distances in the North Atlantic and disrupted the global climate. In this talk, I will present several results related to an idealized model of iceberg drift and decay that we have recently developed. These results include (i) the identification and correction of substantial flaws in a standard representation of iceberg capsizing that has been used in dozens of previous modeling studies, (ii) a mathematical derivation and physical explanation of the empirical rule-of-thumb for how winds and ocean currents influence iceberg drift, and (iii) a proposed physical mechanism involving sea ice and wave erosion that could have substantially increased the lengths of iceberg drift trajectories during glacial Heinrich events, with implications regarding the impact on the climate system if a large iceberg discharge event occurs in the future.

About this Series

The PAOC Colloquium is a weekly interdisciplinary seminar series that brings together the whole PAOC community. Seminar topics include all research concerning the physics, chemistry, and biology of the atmospheres, oceans and climate, but also talks about e.g. societal impacts of climatic processes. The seminars generally take place on Monday from 12-1pm. Lunch is provided to encourage students and post-docs to meet with the speaker. Besides the seminar and lunch, individual meetings with professors, post-docs, and students are arranged.


Location: 54-915/923 — MIT Building 54-915/923