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Investigation of pore closure during polar firn densification

  • Burr, Alexis
Publication Date
Nov 29, 2017
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Densification from firn to ice is an essential phenomenon to understand for the interpretation of the climate record. A good knowledge of this mechanism enables the precise dating of the air embedded in the ice. The step at which the air becomes entrapped is the pore closure (or close-off). Because of gas flow in the firn column, the ice is older than the entrapped air. The difference between ice and gas is generally defined as Δage.Snow densification consists of grain rearrangements, sintering and viscoplastic deformation. Although the viscoplastic behaviour of the ice crystal is strongly anisotropic, densification models do not take into account this anisotropy. Firn also bears some granular characteristics that may affect its densification. The interactions between pore closure and microstructural mechanisms in the firn are still misunderstood.The aim of this PhD thesis is to incorporate both the granular aspect of firn and its anisotropy into an innovating approach of firn densification modelling. The mutual indentation of viscoplastic monocrystalline ice cylinders was experimentally carried out to propose a contact law that is based on indentation theory and that takes into account the preferential viscoplastic deformation on the basal plane. We have integrated this contact law into a DEM (Discrete Element Method) code for the prediction of firn densification.3D X-ray micro-tomography was performed on polar firn at different stages of the densification (ρ= 0.55-0.88 g/cm3) and depths (~23 to 130m). A thorough investigation of pore closure and of different morphological and physical parameters was achieved for the Dome C and the newly drilled Lock In polar sites. In addition to these ex situ analyses, in situ X-ray micro-mechanical experiments were carried out on firn extracted from Dome C in order to model its densification. Ex situ and in situ microstructural observations indicate significant differences that can be explained by the relatively large strain-rates imposed to the firn during in situ tests. These large strain rates allow for a decoupling of the effects of diffusion kinetics and of viscoplastic deformation. Their relative weights on the morphology of pores and on their closure are discussed. To measure pore closure, we propose a connectivity index, which is the ratio of the largest pore volume over the total pore volume. We show that this index is better suited for X-ray tomography analysis than the classic closed porosity ratio to predict the close-off density

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