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Visualizing brine channel development and convective processes during artificial sea-ice growth using Schlieren optical methods

  • C. A. MIDDLETON (a1) (a2), C. THOMAS (a1), A. DE WIT (a1) and J.-L. TISON (a2)

Two non-invasive optical Schlieren methods have been adapted to visualize brine channel development and convective processes in experimentally grown sea ice obtained when a NaCl aqueous solution is cooled from above in a quasi-two-dimensional Hele–Shaw cell. The two different visualization methods, i.e. traditional and synthetic Schlieren optical imaging, produce high spatial resolution images of transport processes during ice growth, without any external perturbation. These images allow observations of the flow dynamics simultaneously within the ice layer, around the ice/water interface, and in the liquid water layer, revealing connections between the processes occurring within the two phases. Results from these methods show that desalination of the growing ice layer occurs by two concurrent, yet independent, mechanisms: (1) boundary layer convection persisting throughout the ice growth period, with short fingers present just below the ice/water interface, and (2) gravity-driven drainage from the brine channels producing deep penetrating convective streamers, which appear after a given time from the beginning of ice growth. The improved visualization and qualitative characterization of these processes show that Schlieren optical methods have exciting potential applications for future study of convective processes during sea-ice growth.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Correspondence: C. A. Middleton <>
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