Numerical simulation of formation and preservation of Ningwu ice cave, Shanxi, China


S. Yang
Y. Shi


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Publication Date

January 2015


Ice caves exist in locations where annual average air temperature is higher than 0 °C. An example is Ningwu ice cave, Shanxi Province, the largest ice cave in China. In order to quantitatively investigate the mechanism of formation and preservation of the ice cave, we use the finite-element method to simulate the heat transfer process at this ice cave. There are two major control factors. First, there is the seasonal asymmetric heat transfer. Heat is transferred into the ice cave from outside very inefficiently by conduction in spring, summer and fall. In winter, thermal convection occurs that transfers heat very efficiently out of the ice cave, thus cooling it down. Secondly, ice–water phase change provides a heat barrier for heat transfer into the cave in summer. The calculation also helps to evaluate effects of global warming, tourists, colored lights, climatic conditions, etc. for sustainable development of the ice cave as a tourism resource. In some other ice caves in China, managers have installed airtight doors at these ice caves' entrances with the intention of "protecting" these caves, but this in fact prevents cooling in winter and these cave ices will entirely melt within tens of years.




The Cryosphere, Vol. 9 (2015).