Research

Icebergs and Caramel

What do icebergs and caramel have in common? Both have similar scalloped erosion patterns as they dissolve. When caramel dissolves in water, the denser caramel sinks in the buoyant water. An initially smooth surface will first form lines, then the flowing caramel and the uneven surface interact, forming chevrons, followed by larger scallops. A similar process happens with melting icebergs. The meltwater from an iceberg is less dense than the surrounding seawater, so it will rise as it melts. This causes variations in the salt concentration and temperature near the iceberg, which cause it to melt differently in different spots, ultimately leading to the same scallop shapes observed in the caramel. Check out the full-size PDF of the poster here. (Image credit: C. Cohen et al.)

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