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Stable water isotope records of six firn cores retrieved from two adjacent plateaus on the northern Antarctic Peninsula between 2014 and 2016 are presented and investigated for their connections with firn-core glacio-chemical data, meteorological records and modelling results. Average annual accumulation rates of 2500 kg m−2 a−1 largely reduce the modification of isotopic signals in the snowpack by post-depositional processes, allowing excellent signal preservation in space and time. Comparison of firn-core and ECHAM6-wiso modelled δ18O and d-excess records reveals a large agreement on annual and sub-annual scales, suggesting firn-core stable water isotopes to be representative of specific synoptic situations. The six firn cores exhibit highly similar isotopic patterns in the overlapping period (2013), which seem to be related to temporal changes in moisture sources rather than local near-surface air temperatures. Backward trajectories calculated with the HYSPLIT model suggest that prominent δ18O minima in 2013 associated with elevated sea salt concentrations are related to long-range moisture transport dominated by westerly winds during positive SAM phases. In contrast, a broad δ18O maximum in the same year accompanied by increased concentrations of black carbon and mineral dust corresponds to the advection of more locally derived moisture with northerly flow components (South America) when the SAM is negative.
The validity of any glaciological paleo proxy used to interpret climate records is based on the level of understanding of their transfer from the atmosphere into the ice sheet and their recording in the snowpack. Large spatial noise in snow properties is observed, as the wind constantly redistributes the deposited snow at the surface routed by the local topography. To increase the signal-to-noise ratio and getting a representative estimate of snow properties with respect to the high spatial variability, a large number of snow profiles is needed. However, the classical way of obtaining profiles via snow-pits is time and energy-consuming, and thus unfavourable for large surface sampling programs. In response, we present a dual-tube technique to sample the upper metre of the snowpack at a variable depth resolution with high efficiency. The developed device is robust and avoids contact with the samples by exhibiting two tubes attached alongside each other in order to (1) contain the snow core sample and (2) to access the bottom of the sample, respectively. We demonstrate the performance of the technique through two case studies in East Antarctica where we analysed the variability of water isotopes at a 100 m and 5 km spatial scales.
We compared elastic moduli in polar firn derived from diving wave refraction seismic velocity analysis, firn-core density measurements and microstructure modelling based on firn-core data. The seismic data were obtained with a small electrodynamic vibrator source near Kohnen Station, East Antarctica. The analysis of diving waves resulted in velocity–depth profiles for different wave types (P-, SH- and SV-waves). Dynamic elastic moduli of firn were derived by combining P- and S-wave velocities and densities obtained from firn-core measurements. The structural finite-element method (FEM) was used to calculate the components of the elastic tensor from firn microstructure derived from X-ray tomography of firn-core samples at depths of 10, 42, 71 and 99 m, providing static elastic moduli. Shear and bulk moduli range from 0.39 to 2.42 GPa and 0.68 to 2.42 GPa, respectively. The elastic moduli from seismic observations and the structural FEM agree within 8.5% for the deepest achieved values at a depth of 71 m, and are within the uncertainty range. Our observations demonstrate that the elastic moduli of the firn can be consistently obtained from two independent methods which are based on dynamic (seismic) and static (tomography and FEM) observations, respectively, for deeper layers in the firn below ~10 m depth.
A new densification model, which simulates the effect of impurities on the densification of polar firn, is presented. The classical densification models of Herron and Langway (1980) and Pimienta and Barnola (Barnola and others, 1991) are modified by assuming that the activation energy for deformation is reduced by the impurities. Motivated by recent observations, the impurity effect is formulated on an empirical basis using the seasonally varying Ca2+ ion concentration. Excellent agreement between simulated and measured high-resolution density profiles confirms the new approach. The same parameterization applies for Greenland and Antarctica despite the one order of magnitude difference in impurity concentration. The new models allow us, for the first time, to simulate the density layering in firn down to the firn–ice transition. Our results emphasize the importance of impurities and density layering for the air entrapment and for dating gas records of deep ice cores, in particular for glacial climate conditions where the impurity concentrations are 10–100-fold higher than in modern firn.
We investigated the large-scale (10–1000 m) and small-scale (mm–cm) variations in size, number and arrangement of air bubbles in the EPICA Dronning Maud Land (EDML) (Antarctica) ice core, down to the end of the bubble/hydrate transition (BHT) zone. On the large scale, the bubble number density shows a general correlation with the palaeo-temperature proxy, δ18O, and the dust concentration, which means that in Holocene ice there are fewer bubbles than in glacial ice. Small-scale variations in bubble number and size were identified and compared. Above the BHT zone there exists a strong anticorrelation between bubble number density and mean bubble size. In glacial ice, layers of high number density and small bubble size are linked with layers with high impurity content, identified as cloudy bands. Therefore, we regard impurities as a controlling factor for the formation and distribution of bubbles in glacial ice. The anticorrelation inverts in the middle of the BHT zone. In the lower part of the BHT zone, bubble-free layers exist that are also associated with cloudy bands. The high contrast in bubble number density in glacial ice, induced by the impurities, indicates a much more pronounced layering in glacial firn than in modern firn.
A new radioscopic imaging technique has been developed to measure firn density in unprecedented resolution and accuracy even when the porosity is low or the geometry of a core or piece of core is not perfect. The technique is based on an X-ray microfocus computer tomograph (ICE-CT) designed especially for ice-core applications. Applied on an archive piece of the Antarctic firn core B32 drilled in Dronning Maud Land in 1998, the obtained density profile shows a strong correlation with the calcium ion concentration as found previously in Greenland. Given the impurity–density relationship found previously in Greenland, our result suggests both improved accuracy of the new density measurements and an impurity–density relationship with a similar magnitude in Greenland to that on the Antarctic plateau. Our measurements provide first evidence that the impurity–density relationship is a universal feature of polar firn and that the calcium ion concentration can serve as a proxy to describe quantitatively the effect of the impurities on densification.
Firn microstructure properties from six different sites in Greenland and Antarctica are investigated by means of X-ray microcomputer tomography. The optical effective radius is calculated from the specific surface area (SSA) and used as a measure of grain size. It is shown that the recently introduced spherical approximation of firn grains using the effective radius Reff is representative of grain size in the microwave frequency region. The measured profiles show the well-known increase of grain size with depth at all sites, where the increase is largest at near-surface depths. A large variability in grain size on the decimeter-to-centimeter scale as a result of different grain properties of single layers is superimposed on the overall trend at each site. A simple empirical parameterization of grain-size evolution is developed which allows the rapid grain growth in the uppermost layers of the firn to be predicted. The growth is driven by strong seasonal and diurnal temperature gradients. The model can be used to simulate grain-size profiles required by models of firn/microwave interaction (e.g. for retrieval of accumulation rates from satellite microwave sensors) in a more realistic fashion.
Measurements of N2/O2 ratios inside individual air bubbles at various depths in the EDML (Antarctic) ice core are presented here. The small bubbles (diameter less than ~200 µm) in deeper ice are significantly enriched in O2 compared to the larger bubbles. The N2/O2 ratios show a systematic dependence on bubble size which is not the case for bubbles in shallower ice. This is interpreted as an effect of pressure relaxation during storage of the cores.
Air bubbles in ice cores play an essential role in climate research, not only because they contain samples of the palaeoatmosphere, but also because their shape, size and distribution provide information about the past firn structure and the embedding of climate records into deep ice cores. In this context, we present profiles of average bubble size and bubble number for the entire EDML (Antarctica) core and the top 600 m of the EDC (Antarctica) core, and distributions of bubble sizes from selected depths. The data are generated with an image-processing framework which automatically extracts position, orientation, size and shape of an elliptical approximation of each bubble from thick-section micrographs, without user interaction. The presented software framework allows for registration of overlapping photomicrographs to yield accurate locations of bubble-like features. A comparison is made between the bubble parameterizations in the EDML and EDC cores and data published on the Vostok (Antarctica) ice core. The porosity at the firn/ice transition is inferred to lie between 8.62% and 10.48% for the EDC core and between 10.56% and 12.61 % for the EDML core.
Analyses of shallow cores obtained at the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica (EPICA) drilling site Kohnen station (75°00′ S, 00°04′ E; 2892 m a.s.l.) on the plateau of Dronning Maud Land reveal the presence of conserved snow dunes in the firn. In situ observations during three dune formation events in the 2005/06 austral summer at Kohnen station show that these periods were characterized by a phase of 2 or 3 days with snowdrift prior to dune formation which only occurred during high wind speeds of >10 m s-1 at 2 m height caused by the influence of a low-pressure system. The dune surface coverage after a formation event varied between 5% and 15%, with a typical dune size of (4 ± 2) m × (8 ± 3) m, a maximum height of 0.2 ± 0.1 m and a periodicity length of about 30 m. The mean density within a snow dune varied between 380 and 500 kg m-3, whereas the mean density at the surrounding surface was 330 ± 5 kgm-3. The firn cores covering a time-span of 22 ± 2 years reveal that approximately three to eight events per year occurred, during which snow dunes had been formed and were preserved in the firn.
The first three-dimensional properties of polar firn obtained by X-ray microtomography are used to study the microstructure of snow on a 15 m deep firn core from West Antarctica. The snow is found to undergo coarsening down to approximately 2.5 m depth before grain growth and densification become the prevalent mechanisms of microstructure change. In contrast to previous assumptions, distinct anisotropy of the ice and pore geometry is observed throughout the profile, with a maximum at 2.5 m depth. The air permeability and the degree of anisotropy vary with depth and can be linked to short-term changes in accumulation rate via the residence time for which a certain snow layer stays in the uppermost 2.5 m. Patterns of the degree of anisotropy and air permeability of buried polar firn are relative indicators of past accumulation rates.
This work presents a method of mapping deformation-related sublimation patterns, formed on the surface of ice specimens, at microscopic resolution (3–4 μm pixel−1). The method is based on the systematic sublimation of a microtomed piece of ice, prepared either as a thick or a thin section. The mapping system consists of an optical microscope, a CCD video camera and a computer-controlled xy-stage. About 1500 images are needed to build a high-resolution mosaic map of a 4.5 × 9 cm section. Mosaics and single images are used to derive a variety of statistical data about air inclusions (air bubbles and air clathrate hydrates), texture (grain size, shape and orientation) and deformation-related features (subgrain boundaries, slip bands, subgrain islands and loops, pinned and bulged grain boundaries). The most common sublimation patterns are described, and their relevance for the deformation of polar ice is briefly discussed.
The densification of dry polar snow and firn results in a continuous increase of density with depth accompanied by significant density fluctuations within seasonal layers. Density measurements of high spatial resolution reveal a persistent minimum of density fluctuations in the vicinity of the snow–firn transition (0.55–0.65 g cm-3) in firn-core records. In this study we give an explanation for the fluctuation minimum by applying a new method of X-ray microtomography to obtain three-dimensional (3-D) structural data of a Greenland firn core. At 13 different depths between 10 and 78 m a set of 16 samples of 40 cm total length for each depth interval was measured. A reconstructed firn segment of 40 cm covers 1–2 years of snow accumulation. Using digital image analysis techniques, different structural parameters are estimated including 3-D pore and particle sizes and specific surface areas. It is shown that the densification rates of snow and firn layers consisting of coarse particles are much higher than those consisting of fine particles within the same depth interval. This causes a density crossing of fine- and coarse-grained layers with a minimum of density variations at the crossover point. This crossing-over implies that formerly dense layers in the seasonal density signal are not of the same origin as dense layers in the deeper part of the firn column and that the seasonal density signal will totally change shape with depth. It is speculated that in coarse- and fine-grained firn the dominant mechanism of densification acts over different regimes of density.
Permeability and meltwater flow have been studied in sea ice in the Siberian and central Arctic during the summers of 1995 and 1996. A bail-test technique has been adapted to allow for measurements of in situ permeability, found to range between 10−11 and 10−8 m2. Permeability varied by about a factor of 2 between 1995 (above-normal melt rates) and 1996 (below-normal melt rates). Release of fluorescent tracers (fluorescein, rhodamine) furthermore allowed the derivation of flow velocities and assessment of the relevant driving forces. Hydraulic gradients in rough ice and wind stress in ponded ice were found to be particularly important, driving meltwater over distances of several meters per day. The mid- to late-summer ice was found to be permeable enough to completely divert meltwater from the surface into the ice interior. It is shown, however, that lower permeabilities of the upper ice layers as well as refreezing of meltwater, particularly during the early melt season, foster the development of surface melt ponds.
In this study a powerful tool to investigate the permeabilities and effective diffusion coefficients of polar firn is presented using a combination of an experimental method for three-dimensional pore-structure reconstruction and two models to simulate advective and diffusive transports of gases through the pore space. the reconstruction follows a semi-automated digital analysis of serial surface sections. the simulations are based on a three-dimensional lattice Boltzmann formulation. They separately solve the Navier–Stokes equation and the diffusive transport equations. In a first application, effective diffusion coefficients and permeabilities are calculated from firn samples of a core drilled during the North Greenland Traverse 1993–95. the estimated relationships of diffusivity and permeability to the open porosity are expressed by power-law functions with exponents 2.1 and 3.4, respectively.
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