A model of the dynamics and thermodynamics of a plume of meltwater at the base of an ice shelf is presented. Such ice shelf water plumes may become supercooled and deposit marine ice if they rise (because of the pressure decrease in the in situ freezing temperature), so the model incorporates both melting and freezing at the ice shelf base and a multiple-size-class model of frazil ice dynamics and deposition. The plume is considered in two horizontal dimensions, so the influence of Coriolis forces is incorporated for the first time. It is found that rotation is extremely influential, with simulated plumes flowing in near-geostrophy because of the low friction at a smooth ice shelf base. As a result, an ice shelf water plume will only rise and become supercooled (and thus deposit marine ice) if it is constrained to flow upslope by topography. This result agrees with the observed distribution of marine ice under Filchner–Ronne Ice Shelf, Antarctica. In addition, it is found that the model only produces reasonable marine ice formation rates when an accurate ice shelf draft is used, implying that the characteristics of real ice shelf water plumes can only be captured using models with both rotation and a realistic topography.