Discrete-element model for the interaction between ocean waves and sea ice

Zhijie Xu, Alexandre M. Tartakovsky, Wenxiao Pan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We present a discrete-element method (DEM) model to simulate the mechanical behavior of sea ice in response to ocean waves. The interaction of ocean waves and sea ice potentially can lead to the fracture and fragmentation of sea ice depending on the wave amplitude and period. The fracture behavior of sea ice explicitly is modeled by a DEM method where sea ice is modeled by densely packed spherical particles with finite sizes. These particles are bonded together at their contact points through mechanical bonds that can sustain both tensile and compressive forces and moments. Fracturing naturally can be represented by the sequential breaking of mechanical bonds. For a given amplitude and period of incident ocean waves, the model provides information for the spatial distribution and time evolution of stress and microfractures and the fragment size distribution. We demonstrate that the fraction of broken bonds α increases with increasing wave amplitude. In contrast, the ice fragment size l decreases with increasing amplitude. This information is important for the understanding of the breakup of individual ice floes and floe fragment size.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number016703
JournalPhysical Review E - Statistical, Nonlinear, and Soft Matter Physics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 5 2012
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Statistical and Nonlinear Physics
  • Statistics and Probability
  • Condensed Matter Physics


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