Numerical Modeling of Particle-Fluid Mixtures in a Subglacial Setting: Granular Deformation and Hydrological Flow Response

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Anders Damsgaard1, David L Egholm1, Jan A Piotrowski1, Slawek M Tulaczyk2 and Nicolaj K Larsen1, (1)Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark, (2)Univ California Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA, United States
The coupled mechanical response of ice, water and sediment may control the flow of warm-based glaciers residing on deformable sediment. This is most clearly expressed by the fast flowing ice streams in Greenland and Antarctica, where low levels of basal friction are thought to support the high flow rates. These ice streams are of particular interest since they are large constituents of the polar ice sheet mass balance. The study of these ice streams and their future impact on the ice sheets necessitates a deeper understanding of their basal dynamics, including the rheology of water-saturated sediment.

We present the methodology and first results of a coupled numerical model for computational experiments on granular-fluid mixtures under dynamic conditions similar to those in subglacial settings. The granular phase is simulated on a per-particle basis by the soft body discrete element method. The fluid phase is handled as a continuum by solving the incompressible Navier-Stokes equations. The particle and fluid phases are coupled by mass conservation and momentum exchanges.

The hydraulic diffusivity and permeability is compared to previous laboratory studies on tills. We demonstrate how the onset and halt of granular deformation is an efficient mechanism to create fluid pressure fluctuations due to local porosity changes. These pressure anomalies are driving transient hydraulic flows, and they influence directly the rheology of granular-fluid mixtures. Our results highlight the nonlinear nature of water saturated granular deformation, and demonstrate how the mechanical behaviour of granular materials may include both brittle and viscous components depending on the rates of deformation and the hydrological properties.