Jacob Buffo

NASA Earth and Space Science Fellow


My research focuses on the numerical modeling of sea ice, ice shelves, and the icy shells of moons in the solar system and how this impacts their evolution, dynamics, and potential habitability. In particular I am interested in the micro-scale (~1cm) interactions that occur at, and near, the ice-ocean interface of these environments. My work aims to accurately model these small scale interactions by combining numerical simulations that incorporate thermodynamics, chemistry, and equations for reactive fluid and solute transport in porous media, along with laboratory and field observations, to better constrain parameterizations used in large scale models for climate, ocean, atmospheric, Earth systems, and planetary science.

Sea Ice Modeling

Sea ice is a ubiquitous feature of the polar regions, and as the boundary layer between the atmosphere and ocean it acts a mediator for thermal and chemical transport, as well as supplies a habitat for a number of microbiota crucial to these area’s ecosystems. Simulating sea ice formation and evolution helps constrain climatic, oceanic, and atmospheric models yet accurate incorporation into Earth systems models is elusive due to the complex nature of the sea ice structure. Sea ice contains a sizable fraction of liquid and air filled pockets and channels throughout its stratigraphy due to the fractional crystallization of sea water, where salt is rejected during its solidification. This leads to multiphase system capable of heat, solute, and mass transfer by diffusive as well as advective processes. This is especially true near the ice-ocean interface where tens of centimeters from the bottom of the ice liquid fraction may remain as high as 10%. My models address these complex physics and include the physics of reactive transport (known as mushy layer theory) needed to describe the system as well as parameterizations for exotic phenomenon such as platelet ice accretion (an inverse sedimentation process that occurs near ice shelves leading to an upside down ‘snowing’ of ice crystals onto the ice’s basal surface).



I grew up in Shueyville, Iowa and subsequently attended the University of Iowa where I received a double major in Astronomy (B.S.) and Physics (B.S.) as well as a minor in Mathematics. After graduating in December of 2013 I spent a winter as a snowboard instructor in Winter Park, Colorado before coming to Georgia Tech where I am currently a PhD candidate.


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