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Title: Warm pool ocean heat content regulates ocean–continent moisture transport
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Page Range / eLocation ID:
92 to 99
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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  1. Abstract

    The freezing point of water is negatively dependent on pressure; therefore in any ocean without external forcing it is warmest at the surface and grows colder with depth. Below floating ice on Earth (e.g., ice shelves or sea ice), this pressure dependence combines with gradients in the ice draft to drive an ice redistribution process termed the “ice pump”: submerged ice melts, upwells, and then refreezes at shallower depths. Ice pumping is an exchange process between the ocean and overhead ice that results in unique ice compositions and textures and influences the distribution of sub‐ice habitats on Earth. Here, we scale recent observations from Earth's ice shelves to planetary conditions and find that ice pumping is expected for a wide range of possible sub‐ice shell pressures and salinity at other ocean worlds such as Europa and Enceladus. We show how ice pumping would affect hypothetical basal ice shell topography and ice thickness under varying ocean conditions and demonstrate how remote sensing of the ice shell draft can be used to estimate temperature gradients in the upper ocean ahead of in situ exploration. For example, the approximately 22 km gradient observed in Enceladus' ice shell draft between the south pole and the equator suggests a temperature differential of 0.18 K at the base of the ice shell. These concepts can extend the interpretation of observations from upcoming ocean world missions, and link ice shell topography to ice‐ocean material exchange processes that may prove important to overall ocean world habitability.

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