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The microstructure of meteoric ice from Vostok, Antarctica

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The 3623 m long, 5G core collected at Vostok station, Antarctica, contains alternating layers of meteoric ice with two distinctly different microstructures. In this paper, we present the microstructure and impurity content of a number of specimens ranging in depth from 97 to 3416 m, describe in detail the characteristics of the different layers and propose a mechanism for their microstructural development. Digital image analysis, ion chromatography, scanning electron microscopy and energy dispersive X-ray spectroscopy were used to measure texture and the location and type of impurities; electron backscatter diffraction was used to determine crystal orientation. The ice associated with interglacial periods is characterized by relatively coarse grains and a strong preferred orientation of the c axes in a plane encompassing the coring direction, producing a vertical-girdle fabric. In contrast, ice from glacial periods is characterized by a much smaller grain size and a strong single-maximum fabric, where the c axes are clustered around the vertical. Calcium is uniquely present in the grain boundaries of the fine-grained glacial layers, and its effect on grain-boundary mobility and the misorientation dependence of mobility can explain the development of the discontinuous microstructure seen in glacial ice at Vostok station.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2007

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  • 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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