Microstructural evolution in the fine-grained region of the Sip le Dome (Antarctica) ice core

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Journal of Glaciology


Thayer School of Engineering


We present a microstructural characterization of fine-grained layers from the top 90 m of firn from Summit, Greenland, performed using a combination of scanning electron microscopy techniques including secondary electron imaging, energy-dispersive spectroscopy and electron backscattered patterns, and X-ray microcomputed tomography. The impurities in the firn, both soluble impurities and dust particles, were found largely in the grain interiors. Both c- and a-axis pole figures do not show strong evidence of a preferred orientation of the grains even at the bottom of the firn column. The firn structure became increasingly anisotropic with vertical alignment in the top 3 m, probably due to vapor transport associated with dry-snow metamorphism. The anisotropy decreases below this level until at 50 m the average firn structure is close to isotropic. In the near surface, the level of anisotropy is weaker than at Hercules Dome, Antarctica, confirming that differences in accumulation rates and temperatures leave enduring evidence in the structure of the firn. The fraction of closed-off pores is relatively low until 65 m; below that it rises through the end of our sampling at 90 m. Our microstructure measurements on the microscale are consistent with in situ firn-air sampling measurements on a decimeter scale, both indicating the existence of the lock-in zone starting near 69 m depth, and pore close-off at 81 m at this site.