Collaborative Research: The Impact of Impurities and Stress State on Polycrystalline Ice Deformation
An accurate constitutive relationship for ice is fundamental to ice-flow models and ice-core interpretations. While Glen’s flow law describes well the overall deformation of ice when subjected to stress, many details remain poorly constrained. In particular, the effect of impurities on the strain rate both directly and through the development of ice fabric is not well understood. Variations in impurity concentrations are associated with variations in deformation rates as observed in both Greenland and Antarctica. The impact of uncertainties on the deformation of ice is most acutely observed in the interpretation of ice cores where the inference of past accumulation rate depends on the cumulative vertical thinning. Thus, many ice-core climate reconstructions, such as the gas-age ice-age difference, surface temperature histories, and aerosol fluxes, are also affected. Given the complexities of the possible impacts of sulfuric acid on the flow of ice and the interaction between these impacts, it seems almost impossible to examine an ice core and understand the impacts of impurities on the microstructural evolution and creep behavior. Our research seeks to understand the effects of sulfuric acid at concentrations applicable to polar ice sheets and relate these results to the flow of polar ice both through experiments and through modeling. Our results have shown that the presence of sulfuric acid in the grain boundaries of polar ice increases its strength in shear, while sulfuric acid in the whole matrix of polar ice reduces its strength. We have also found that sulfuric acid causes an initial increase in average grain sizes and then a subsequent decrease, a trend that differs from the continuous increase in average grain sizes observed in freshwater ice. We are also determining the role of stress state, i.e. simple compression versus shear, on the microstructural evolution and how sulfuric acid impacts this.
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