Crystallographic analysis of temperate ice on Rhonegletscher, Swiss Alps

Ilka.Weikusat [ at ]


Crystal orientation fabric (COF) analysis provides information about the c-axis orientation of ice grains and the associated anisotropy and microstructural information about deformation and recrystallisation processes within the glacier. This information can be used to introduce modules that fully describe the microstructural anisotropy or at least direction-dependent enhancement factors for glacier modelling. The COF was studied at an ice core that was obtained from the temperate Rhonegletscher, located in the central Swiss Alps. Seven samples, extracted at depths between 2 and 79 m, were analysed with an automatic fabric analyser. The COF analysis revealed conspicuous four-maxima patterns of the c-axis orientations at all depths. Additional data, such as microstructural images, produced during the ice sample preparation process, were considered to interpret these patterns. Furthermore, repeated high-precision global navigation satellite system (GNSS) surveying allowed the local glacier flow direction to be determined. The relative movements of the individual surveying points indicated longitudinal compressive stresses parallel to the glacier flow. Finally, numerical modelling of the ice flow permitted estimation of the local stress distribution. An integrated analysis of all the data sets provided indications and suggestions for the development of the four-maxima patterns. The centroid of the four-maxima patterns of the individual core samples and the coinciding maximum eigenvector approximately align with the compressive stress directions obtained from numerical modelling with an exception for the deepest sample. The clustering of the c axes in four maxima surrounding the predominant compressive stress direction is most likely the result of a fast migration recrystallisation. This interpretation is supported by air bubble analysis of large-area scanning macroscope (LASM) images. Our results indicate that COF studies, which have so far predominantly been performed on cold ice samples from the polar regions, can also provide valuable insights into the stress and strain rate distribution within temperate glaciers.

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ISI/Scopus peer-reviewed
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DOI 10.5194/tc-15-677-2021

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Hellmann, S. , Kerch, J. , Weikusat, I. , Bauder, A. , Grab, M. , Jouvet, G. , Schwikowski, M. and Maurer, H. (2021): Crystallographic analysis of temperate ice on Rhonegletscher, Swiss Alps , The Cryosphere, 15 , pp. 677-694 . doi: 10.5194/tc-15-677-2021

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