How the growth of ice depends on the fluid dynamics underneath

Ziqi Wang, Enrico Calzavarini, Chao Sun (Corresponding author), Federico Toschi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


Convective flows coupled with solidification or melting in water bodies play a major role in shaping geophysical landscapes. Particularly in relation to the global climate warming scenario, it is essential to be able to accurately quantify how water-body environments dynamically interplay with ice formation or melting process. Previous studies have revealed the complex nature of the icing process, but have often ignored one of the most remarkable particularities of water, its density anomaly, and the induced stratification layers interacting and coupling in a complex way in the presence of turbulence. By combining experiments, numerical simulations, and theoretical modeling, we investigate solidification of freshwater, properly considering phase transition, water density anomaly, and real physical properties of ice and water phases, which we show to be essential for correctly predicting the different qualitative and quantitative behaviors. We identify, with increasing thermal driving, four distinct flow-dynamics regimes, where different levels of coupling among ice front and stably and unstably stratified water layers occur. Despite the complex interaction between the ice front and fluid motions, remarkably, the average ice thickness and growth rate can be well captured with the theoretical model. It is revealed that the thermal driving has major effects on the temporal evolution of the global icing process, which can vary from a few days to a few hours in the current parameter regime. Our model can be applied to general situations where the icing dynamics occur under different thermal and geometrical conditions.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2012870118
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 9 Mar 2021


  • Density anomaly
  • Hydrodynamic turbulence
  • Ice dynamics
  • Rayleigh–Bénard convection
  • Solidification


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