News Release

New models accurately simulate the behavior of sea ice

University of Magdeburg mathematician is going to test new approach on expedition to North Pole

Grant and Award Announcement

Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg

Mathematician Dr. Carolin Mehlmann

image: The mathematician Dr. Carolin Mehlmann from Otto von Guericke University Magdeburg is developing a new numerical model that will more reliably simulate and predict the precise movement and extension of sea ice at both poles. On an expedition to the North Pole in August, she will test the validity of her new simulation method. view more 

Credit: Hannah Theile/Uni Magdeburg

In future, it will be possible using the new sea ice model, to analyze the size and thickness of individual ice floes and their motion in greater detail and thus make more precise predictions about their behavior. “I am interested in what drives the sea-ice and what happens when forces act on individual floes, for example when the wind blows. I aim to model this relationship in an equation,” explains the mathematician.

Existing climate models describe the average motion of ice. The mathematician explains that to do this, statistical average values over a large number of floes are used. “Due to climate change, the ice has become more loose at the poles, which is why the assumption of having a sufficiently large number of ice floes is no longer a given. In areas where not enough sea ice floes are present, the equation that expresses the averaged floe movement is therefore no longer valid.” Dr. Mehlmann has expanded a existing sea-ice model, utilizing particles. “These particles represent small ice floes. I am therefore no longer modeling how everything behaves on average, but actually represent the interaction of the individual floes.”

Mehlmann goes on to explain that above all the model is designed to depict the so-called marginal ice zone, the border area between solid ice at the poles and the open ocean, in which many small interacting floes are located. “This zone is currently neglected by existing climate models, as there are no methods for specifically representing them. However, due to climate change, this zone is becoming larger. It is now possible to represent it with the new model,” explains the scientist.

Mehlmann goes on to say that on the other hand, there are phenomena at the poles that have not been understood so far. “In the southern hemisphere, for example, there have been some years where the ice increased even though the conventional models predicted a reduction. My model could provide a better understanding of this behavior.”

To check her assumptions and simulations of the sea ice, in August Dr. Mehlmann will take part in an expedition to the North Pole on a research ship during which she will collect data. “What is important is that my theoretical model precisely reflects what I see during the expedition. I will have the opportunity to calibrate and align the model directly in situ.”

Dr. Carolin Mehlmann has been awarded the Karin Witte Women in Research Sponsorship Award for her extraordinary achievements in research. The prize, which is worth €5,000, is awarded in accordance with the wishes of its founder, Karin Witte, to particularly gifted female scientists in the field of Natural Sciences.

The research project, “A hybrid sea ice model to estimate the impact of sea ice-ocean-atmosphere coupling at the floe scale on the Antarctic sea ice evolution“ has been funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) to the value of €300,000 over three years.

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