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Why doesn’t sea salt melt icebergs?

If salt is used to melt ice when it’s cold outside, why are there icebergs in the sea when the sea is salty?
Frances Mortimore from Wiltshire (Age 25-34)


2 Responses

  1. Salt lowers the temperature at which a mixture with water freezes, so the mixture of salt and water becomes liquid at a lower temperature than water would without salt, i.e. the ice can melt below the normal freezing point of water.

    Icebergs will indeed melt in salty water, and they will melt in pure water too. But icebegs are often very large and take a long time to melt, especially in water that is close to the freezing point. So they can travel long distances before they have completely melted (as the Titanic found to its cost); but you won’t see any at the Equator!

  2. The sea is indeed salty (35%) and this saltiness allows the sea to be at -2C without freezing. The amount of salt used on the road for a small amount of ice results in much higher concentrations of salt and the road will probably not refreeze unless temperatures get to <-10C. You can test this for yourself by putting a spoonful of salt in a large frozen puddle. If the puddle is large enough, only a small amount of the puddle will melt.

    So what you say is true. The iceberg is in a thermal and ionic (salt concentration) balance with the sea around it. If the conditons are right then the salty sea will eventually melt the iceberg though possibly not as fast as the process we use on the road.

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