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Identifying microstructural deformation mechanisms in snow using discrete-element modeling

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A dynamic model of dry snow deformation is developed using a discrete-element technique to identify microstructural deformation mechanisms and simulate creep densification processes. The model employs grain-scale force models, explicit geometric representations of individual ice grains, and snow microstructure using assemblies of grains. Ice grains are randomly oriented cylinders of random length with hemispherical ends. Particle contacts are detected using a novel and efficient method based on the dilation operation in mathematical morphology. Grain-scale ice interaction algorithms, based on observed snow and ice microscale behavior, are developed and implemented in the model. These processes include grain contact sintering, grain boundary sliding and rotation at contacts, and grain contact deformation in tension, compression, shear, torsion and bending. Grain-scale contact force algorithms are temperature- and rate-dependent, with both elastic and viscous components. Grain bonds rupture when elastic stresses exceed ice tensile or shear strengths, after which intergranular friction and particle rearrangement control deformation until the snow compacts to its critical density. Simulations of creep settlement using 1000-grain model snow samples indicate the bulk viscosity of snow is controlled by the grain contact viscosity and area, grain packing and the increased number of frozen bonds that form during settlement. A linear relationship between contact viscosity and bulk snow viscosity at any specified density indicates that the linear model parameters can be accurately scaled, allowing simulations to be conducted for a broad range of dynamic and viscous creep deformation problems.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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