Anomalous Convective Flows Carve Pinnacles and Scallops in Melting Ice

Scott Weady, Joshua Tong, Alexandra Zidovska, Leif Ristroph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We report on the shape dynamics of ice suspended in cold fresh water and subject to the natural convective flows generated during melting. Experiments reveal shape motifs for increasing far-field temperature: Sharp pinnacles directed downward at low temperatures, scalloped waves for intermediate temperatures between Formula Presented and Formula Presented, and upward pointing pinnacles at higher temperatures. Phase-field simulations reproduce these morphologies, which are closely linked to the anomalous density-temperature profile of liquid water. Boundary layer flows yield pinnacles that sharpen with accelerating growth of tip curvature while scallops emerge from a Kelvin-Helmholtz-like instability caused by counterflowing currents that roll up to form vortex arrays. By linking the molecular-scale effects underlying water’s density anomaly to the macroscale flows that imprint the surface, these results show that the morphology of melted ice is a sensitive indicator of ambient temperature.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number044502
JournalPhysical Review Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jan 28 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy


Dive into the research topics of 'Anomalous Convective Flows Carve Pinnacles and Scallops in Melting Ice'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this