Skip to main content

Simulating Fracture of Antarctic Ice Shelves Using Damage Mechanics Models

Primary Investigators:
Ravindra Duddu
Brief Description of Project:
The Antarctic ice sheet is the largest single mass of ice on Earth, which, if melted, would cause sea levels to rise by 58 meters. The Antarctic ice sheet is mostly grounded on bedrock, but there several large floating ice shelves that partially submerged in the sea due to buoyancy forces. As climate change facilitates warmer ocean and air currents in certain regions of the Antarctic continent, the floating ice sheets can undergo more rapid thinning due to melting and fracture, giving birth to large icebergs. Warmer seawater or meltwater can also seep into cracks within the ice and cause hydraulic fractures. If the floating ice shelves disintegrate, then the grounded ice cliffs become exposed leading to ice cliff failure and enhanced ice flow from land into the sea, which has the potential to raise the average sea level worldwide by a meter or more by end of this century. This will have tremendous socio-economic, environmental, and political consequences worldwide, especially, for coastal regions that are highly populated. The purpose of my summer research will be to perform finite element analysis of floating Antarctic Ice Shelves and use continuum damage mechanics to simulate fracture propagation. The broader research objective is to understand the mechanical stress state and the evolution of fractures in the ice shelves over time and address the feedbacks between climate change and ice shelf fractures due to hydraulic fracture mechanisms.

Desired Qualifications: 
Interest in mechanics of materials, computational modeling and environmental science. Self-motivated and interested in programming in Python. Good writing and communications skills. It is also desirable that the student have interest and/or experience in the following areas:

Advanced calculus, partial differential equations
Statics and Engineering Mechanics
Mechanics of Materials
Fluid Statics and Mechanics
Finite element analysis 

Nature of Supervision:
Weekly meetings will be held with the student to monitor the progress of the project. The student will work under the supervision of a graduate student during the week.
A Brief Research Plan (period is for 10 weeks):
Learn basics of damage mechanics and finite element modeling - 2 weeks
Conduct simulations in Python-based FEniCS software - 5 weeks
Visualize and analyze simulation data in Python - 2 weeks
Write a report and make a poster - 1 week 

Number of Open Slots: 1
Contact Information:
Name: Ravindra Duddu
Department: Civil and Environmental Engineering