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Accumulation variability, density profiles and crystal growth trends in ITASE firn and ice cores from West Antarctica

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Results of analyses of snow annual accumulation variability, density and crystal growth measurements in firn and ice cores recovered from the upper layers of the West Antarctic ice sheet during the US component of the International Trans-Antarctic Scientific Expedition (ITASE) are presented. Annual-layer structure was analyzed on the basis of the visible stratigraphy and electrical conductivity measurement record in each core. Annual accumulation varied appreciably between core sites and within cores at individual sites where undulating surface topography appears to be exerting a significant impact on the magnitude of snow deposition. All density profiles except one exhibited densification that was normal with respect to snow annual accumulation and 10 m firn temperatures. Snow annual accumulation was determined stratigraphically, and 10 m firn temperatures were either measured in the holes drilled for cores or inferred using elevation changes relative to Byrd Station, the 10 m temperature at Byrd Station and an assumed lapse rate. Measurements at the one exceptional location indicated that the firn had undergone extremely rapid densification to ice, with the transition to ice occurring at 35–36 m depth. Furthermore, thin-section measurements of grain-size show that the growth of crystals accelerated below the firn–ice transition. The behavior at this one site is attributed to localized deformation in the upper layers of firn and ice. Enhanced crystal growth was also observed at another site. At all other locations where grain-sizes were measured, the rates of crystal growth were in accord with age–temperature relationships observed by other researchers in Antarctica and Greenland. Profiles illustrating pore–crystal structure changes with increasing depth of burial are also presented.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2004-06-01

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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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