Anisotropic Ice and Stratigraphic Disturbances
This award supports a project to investigate the onset and growth of folds and other disturbances seen in the stratigraphic layers of polar ice sheets. The intellectual merit of the work is that it will lead to a better understanding of the grain-scale processes that control the development of these stratigraphic features in the ice and will help answer questions such as what processes can initiate such disturbances. Snow is deposited on polar ice sheets in layers that are generally flat, with thicknesses that vary slowly along the layers. However, ice cores and ice-penetrating radar show that in some cases, after conversion to ice, and following lengthy burial, the layers can become folded, develop pinch-and-swell structures (boudinage), and be sheared by ice flow, at scales ranging from centimeters to hundreds of meters. The processes causing these disturbances are still poorly understood. Disturbances appear to develop first at the ice-crystal scale, then cascade up to larger scales with continuing ice flow and strain. Crystal-scale processes causing distortions of cm-scale layers will be modeled using Elle, a microstructure-modeling package, and constrained by fabric thin-sections and grain-elongation measurements from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet divide ice-core. A full-stress continuum anisotropic ice-flow model coupled to an ice-fabric evolution model will be used to study bulk flow of anisotropic ice, to understand evolution and growth of flow disturbances on the meter and larger scale. Results from this study will assist in future ice-core site selection, and interpretation of stratigraphy in ice cores and radar, and will provide improved descriptions of rheology and stratigraphy for ice-sheet flow models.The broader impacts are that it will bring greater understanding to ice dynamics responsible for stratigraphic disturbance. This information is valuable to constrain depth-age relationships in ice cores for paleoclimate study. This will allow researchers to put current climate change in a more accurate context. This project will provide three years of support for a graduate student as well as support and research experience for an undergraduate research assistant; this will contribute to development of talent needed to address important future questions in glaciology and climate change. The research will be communicated to the public through outreach events and results from the study will be disseminated through public and professional meetings as well as journal publications. The project does not require field work in Antarctica.
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