Instruments and Methods In situ measurements of firn compaction profiles using borehole optical stratigraphy

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We have developed a technique in which we use a borehole video camera and postprocessing software to make a record of the optical brightness as a function of depth in polar firn. We call this method borehole optical stratigraphy. To measure firn compaction, we note the positions of optical features on the borehole wall detected by an initial 'baseline' log. We track the displacements of these features in subsequent logs. The result provides a measurement of the relative vertical motion and thus compaction of the firn over the survey period. We have successfully used this system at Summit, Greenland, to measure the depth distribution of firn column shortening experienced in a borehole over three 1 year periods. The uppermost 30 m of the firn at Summit is compacting as predicted by a simple steady-state model, implying that the firn density profile at Summit is at or close to steady state over the past ~70 years.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2011

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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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