Evolution of crystal orientation in snow during temperature gradient metamorphism

Authors: Riche, Fabienne; Montagnat, Maurine; Schneebeli, Martin

Source: Journal of Glaciology, Volume 59, Number 213, March 2013 , pp. 47-55(9)

Publisher: International Glaciological Society

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The physical properties of snow are tied to its microstructure. Especially for the slow, plastic deformation of snow and firn, the crystal orientation is an important factor in addition to the geometry of the ice matrix. While micro-computed tomography measures the snow microstructure precisely, it gives no information about the orientation of the ice crystals. In this study, we applied a temperature gradient of 50 K m–1 to large blocks of undisturbed decomposed snow and sieved snow during 3 months. The mean temperature of the snow samples during the temperature gradient experiment was –20°C. Two closely spaced snow samples were taken before the experiment, then every week during the first month and afterwards every month. From each sampling, one sample was analyzed by micro-computed tomography and the other was used for thin sections. The orientation of the c-axis was measured in the thin sections using an automatic ice texture analyzer. Initial density was 30% higher in the sieved snow sample. Density and specific surface area evolved alike, while the fabric showed a different evolution between the two samples. The undisturbed snow evolved from a weak single-maximum fabric towards a weak girdle fabric, while the sieved sample showed no evolution. The undisturbed snow sample converged toward the sieved sample fabric after 6 weeks, but continued its evolution thereafter. We suggest that the main factor causing this different behavior is the difference in density and in pore size.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/2013JoG12J116

Publication date: March 1, 2013

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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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