Modeled seasonal variations of firn density induced by steady-state surface air-temperature cycle
Abstract:Seasonal variations of firn density in ice-sheet firn layers have been attributed to variations in deposition processes or other processes within the upper firn. A recent high-resolution (mm-scale) density profile, measured along a 181 m core from Antarctica, showed small-scale density variations with a clear seasonal cycle that apparently was not related to seasonal variations in deposition or known near-surface processes (Gerland and others, 1999). A recent model of surface elevation changes (Zwally and Li, in press) produced a seasonal variation in firn densification, and explained the seasonal surface elevation changes observed by satellite radar altimeters. In this study, we apply our one-dimensional time-dependent numerical model of firn densification that includes a temperature-dependent formulation of firn densification based on laboratory measurements of grain growth. The model is driven by a steady-state seasonal surface temperature and a constant accumulation rate appropriate for the measured Antarctic ice core. The modeled seasonal variations in firn density show that the layers of snow deposited during spring to mid-summer that have the highest temperature history compress to the highest density, and the layers deposited during later summer to autumn that have the lowest temperature history compress to the lowest density. The initial amplitude of the seasonal difference of about 0.13 reduces to about 0.09 in 5 years and asymptotically to 0.0 at greater depth, which is consistent with the core measurements.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 2002
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