Hugh Shields ’24



Project Title

SubZero: Discrete Element Sea Ice Modeling

Certificate(s): Applied and Computational Mathematics, Statistics and Machine Learning

My research focused on pancake ice, a type of sea ice composed of rounded floes. Pancake ice is found in the Southern Ocean and has begun appearing more frequently in the Arctic due to climate change. The scale of pancake ice formation is too small to be resolved in today’s global climate models, and the processes that drive pancake ice formation are poorly understood. As pancake ice becomes more common, understanding its formation will be useful for naval navigation of an increasingly ice-free Arctic and will also help resolve ocean-atmosphere couplings in climate models. I worked to reproduce pancake ice in SubZero, a sea ice model that represents chunks of ice as an interacting set of polygons constrained by physical laws, that can fracture, weld together and interact with topography. Specifically, I developed code to represent wavefields in the model, improving corner fracturing of floes at a small scale, and building in the capability for wave curvature-induced fractures, which are necessary processes for pancake ice formation. Working with SubZero gave me insight into the computational challenges of working with a complex discrete element model and the difficulties of modeling processes that are hard to observe.

Internship Year


Project Category

Oceans and Atmosphere


School of Oceanography, University of Washington - Seattle, Washington


Georgy Manucharyan, Assistant Professor, School of Oceanography, University of Washington; Brandon Montemuro, Postdoctoral Scholar, School of Oceanography, University of Washington