Siku: A Sea Ice Discrete Element Method Model on a Spherical Earth

Monday, 15 December 2014
Anton V Kulchitsky, Jennifer K Hutchings and Jerome Johnson, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fairbanks, AK, United States
Offshore oil and gas exploration and production activities in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas can be significantly and adversely affected by sea ice. In the event of an oil spill, sea ice complicates the tracking of ice/oil trajectories and can hinder cleanup operations. There is a need for a sea ice dynamics model that can accurately simulate ice pack deformation and failure to improve the ability to track ice/oil trajectories and support oil response operations.

A discrete element method (DEM) model, where each ice floe is represented by discrete elements that are initially bonded (frozen) together will be used to address the difficulty continuum modeling approaches have with representing discrete phenomena in sea ice, such as the formation of leads and ridges. Each discrete element in the DEM is a rigid body driven by environmental forcing (wind, current and Coriolis forces) and interaction forces with other discrete elements (compression, shear, tension, bond rupture and regrowth).

We introduce a new DEM model ``Siku'', currently under development, to simulate ice drift of an ice floe on a spherical Earth. We will present initial free-drift results. Siku is focused on improving sea ice interaction mechanics and providing an accurate geometrical representation needed for basin scale and regional simulations. Upon completion, Siku will be an open source GNU GPL licensed user friendly program with embedded python capability for setting up simulations “scenarios” and coupling with other models to provide forcing fields. We use a unique quaternion representation for position and orientation of polygon sea-ice elements that use a second order integration scheme of sea-ice element motion on the Earth’s sphere that does not depend on the location of the element and, hence, avoids numerical problems near the pole.