Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Why Antarctica ice is fresh water

  1. Jul 15, 2014 #1
    Hello everyone!

    my question is why the ice of Antarctica and arctic, it is made of sweet/fresh water,even though it is water of the sea that froze as far as i know. at least in antarctica there is land underneath so just maybe it is accumulation of rain and snow and hail though it does sound unlikely, but what about arctic, there is no land just ice of frozen water, yet i always here it is fresh water. on the other hand maybe some sea water froze and it became like the land of the southern pole, i.e rain, hail and snow covered the salty ice
    clear that for me please

    thanks :)
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2014 #2
    This article on Brine rejection might explain some of what you're curious about.

    But yes, freezing at high latitudes is generally what creates both (freshwater) ice and cold, salty (dense) water that tends to sink.
  4. Jul 15, 2014 #3
    The vast majority of Antarctic ice (and that of Greenland) is the product of snowfall. The seasonal sea ice is thin and inconsequential in volume terms.
  5. Jul 16, 2014 #4
    Sure, but the OP asked specifically about sea ice (no land underneath) in the Arctic.
  6. Jul 17, 2014 #5
    With respect, the OP asked this: "at least in antarctica there is land underneath so just maybe it is accumulation of rain and snow and hail though it does sound unlikely".

    I addressed that implicit question. My response was on topic. The issue of sea ice had been accurately dealt with via your earlier response. What's the problem?
  7. Jul 17, 2014 #6
    No problem, I just thought the OP already believed that precip was the source of Antarctic accumulation, but it was nice to have you confirm that. :smile:
  8. Aug 7, 2014 #7
    Some proportion of "sea ice" is actually glacial ice that has spread from the land to float on the sea, called shelf ice; it is the primary source of icebergs, for example. It was originally snowfall inland.
  9. Aug 7, 2014 #8
    Sea ice is typically defined as something like: "any form of ice found at sea which has originated from the freezing of sea water." But what you say is certainly true of "ice which is found floating at sea."
  10. Aug 9, 2014 #9
    As most people mentioned the sea ice is salty, not fresh. Fresh sea ice is more saline and since the salt gradually drains out multi year ice is much fresher.

    From Desalination processes of sea ice revisited, Notz and Worster, JOURNAL OF GEOPHYSICAL RESEARCH, VOL. 114.

    (Bold is mine)

    So gravity drainage and flushing is the dominant ways the salt is lost by the sea ice. Sea ice is generally much less saline than sea water.

    As far as I'm aware quite a few of the climate models assume fresh sea ice due to modelling simplicity, and that may have been where you have gotten the idea that sea ice is fresh. Or I think that multi year ice can be fresh enough to melt and drink.
  11. Aug 9, 2014 #10
    Very interesting paper, thanks for the link!

    That's why there is an entire list of possible desalination processes (including gravity drainage and flushing)!
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted