Modeled seasonal variations of firn density induced by steady-state surface air-temperature cycle

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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

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756402781817707

Publication date: January 1, 2002

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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