Dissertation Abstract

The physical properties of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide deep ice core: Development, evolution, and interpretation.

Fegyveresi, John M  2015  

Geosciences, Pennsylvania State University (United States), 303 pp.

The physical properties of the WAIS Divide deep ice core record meteorological conditions during and shortly after deposition, mean temperature during transformation to ice, deformation within the ice, and may retain information on past surface elevations. The WAIS Divide (WDC06A) core was recovered from West Antarctica (79°28.058’ S, 112°05.189’ W, ~1760 m elevation, ~3450 m ice thickness) on the Ross Sea side of the ice-divide with the Amundsen Sea drainage. My observations of the core were supplemented by near-surface studies spanning five consecutive austral summer seasons (2008-2012). Near-surface processes including intense summertime solar heating produce distinct seasonal strata. Prominent “glazed” crusts form very near the surface during times of steep temperature gradients and subsequently develop polygonal cracks, allowing ventilation of deeper firn. The near-surface seasonal contrasts persist to, and beyond the bubble-trapping depth, where they have a weak effect on total trapped air. A new record of total air content also shows that impurities may affect this important parameter, complicating interpretation of past elevation changes. Paleoclimatic interpretation of the number-density of bubbles is extended successfully here through the “brittle ice” zone, providing a record of surface temperature spanning ~5500 years. This new record reveals relatively stable values through the first half of the interval, with a very-slight warming early, followed by a slight cooling over the most recent two millennia. Bubbles were found to be preferentially elongated parallel to the basal planes of enclosing grains, with less overall elongation of bubbles in grains with lower resolved shear stresses on their basal planes, as expected if grain deformation occurs primarily on basal planes and proportional to the stress.