Project Information
Firn Metamorphism: Microstructure and Physical Properties
WAIS Divide Ice Core
This award supports a project to investigate the transformations from snow to firn to ice and the underlying physics controlling firn's ability to store atmospheric samples from the past. Senior researchers, a graduate student, and several undergraduates will make high-resolution measurements of both the diffusivity and permeability profiles of firn cores from several sites in Antarctica and correlate the results with their microstructures quantified using advanced materials characterization techniques (scanning electron microscopy and x-ray computed tomography). The use of cores from different sites will enable us to examine the influence of different local climate conditions on the firn structure. We will use the results to help interpret existing measurements of firn air chemical composition at several sites where firn air measurements exist. There are three closely-linked goals of this project: to quantify the dependence of interstitial transport properties on firn microstructure from the surface down to the pore close-off depth, to determine at what depths bubbles form and entrap air, and investigate the extent to which these features exhibit site-to-site differences, and to use the measurements of firn air composition and firn structure to better quantify the differences between atmospheric composition (present and past), and the air trapped in both the firn and in air bubbles within ice by comparing the results of the proposed work with firn air measurements that have been made at the WAIS Divide and Megadunes sites. The broader impacts of this project are that the study will this study will enable us to elucidate the fundamental controls on the metamorphism of firn microstructure and its impact on processes of gas entrapment that are important to understanding ice core evidence of past atmospheric composition and climate change. The project will form the basis for the graduate research of a PhD student at Dartmouth, with numerous opportunities for undergraduate involvement in cold room measurements and outreach. The investigators have a track record of successfully mentoring women students, and will build on this experience. In conjunction with local earth science teachers, and graduate and undergraduate students will design a teacher-training module on the role of the Polar Regions in climate change. Once developed and tested, this module will be made available to the broader polar research community for their use with teachers in their communities.
Person Role
Albert, Mary Investigator
Baker, Ian Co-Investigator
Antarctic Glaciology Award # 0944078
AMD - DIF Record(s)
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Repository Title (link) Status
USAP-DC Firn Permeability and Density at WAIS Divide exist
  1. Mitchell, L. E., Buizert, C., Brook, E. J., Breton, D. J., Fegyveresi, J., Baggenstos, D., … Ahn, J. (2015). Observing and modeling the influence of layering on bubble trapping in polar firn. Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres, 120(6), 2558–2574. (doi:10.1002/2014jd022766)
  2. Keegan, K. M., Albert, M. R., McConnell, J. R., & Baker, I. (2019). Climate Effects on Firn Permeability Are Preserved Within a Firn Column. Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface, 124(3), 830–837. (doi:10.1029/2018jf004798)