Brine Pockets in the Icy Shell on Europa: Distribution, Chemistry, and HabitabilityOn Earth, sea ice is rich in brine, salt, and gas inclusions that form through capturing of seawater during ice formation. Cooling of the ice over time leads to sequential freezing of captured sea-water, precipitation of salts, exsolution of gases, and formation of brine channels and pockets. Distribution and composition of brines in sea ice depend on the rate of ice formation, vertical temperature gradient, and the age of the ice. With aging, the abundance of brine pockets decreases through downward migration. De- spite low temperatures and elevated salinities, brines in sea ice provide a habitat for photosynthetic and chemosynthetic organisms. On Europa, brine pockets and channels could exist in the icy shell that may be from a few km to a few tens of km thick and is probably underlain by a water ocean. If the icy shell is relatively thick, convection could develop, affecting the temperature pattern in the ice. To predict the distribution and chemistry of brine pockets in the icy shell we have combined numerical models of the temperature distribution within a convecting shell, a model for oceanic chemistry, and a model for freezing of Europan oceanic water. Possible effects of brine and gas inclusions on ice rheology and tectonics are discussed.
Zolotov, M. Yu (Arizona State Univ. Tempe, AZ, United States)
Shock, E. L. (Arizona State Univ. Tempe, AZ, United States)
Barr, A. C. (Colorado Univ. Boulder, CO, United States)
Pappalardo, R. T. (Colorado Univ. Boulder, CO, United States)
August 21, 2013
January 1, 2004
Publication: Workshop on Europa's Icy Shell: Past, Present, and Future