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Microstructure-dependent densification of polar firn derived from X-ray microtomography

  • Johannes Freitag (a1), Frank Wilhelms (a1) and Sepp Kipfstuhl (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

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.

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References
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Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
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