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Title: Gas inclusions in the Antarctic ice sheet and their significance
Authors: National Science Foundation (U.S.). Office of Polar Programs.
Gow, Anthony Jack.
Williamson, Terrence.
Keywords: Air bubbles
Gas inclusions
Antarctic ice sheet
Antarctic ice cap
Glacier ice
Ice cores
Byrd Station, Antarctica
Gas hydrate
Publisher: Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (U.S.)
Engineer Research and Development Center (U.S.)
Series/Report no.: Research report (Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (U.S.)) ; 339.
Description: Research Report
Abstract: Cores obtained to the bottom of the Antarctic Ice Sheet at Byrd Station were used to analyze the physical properties of air bubbles trapped in the ice. These bubbles originate as pockets of air in the upper layers of snow and approximately 10 ml of air/100 cm^3 of ice; i.e., 10% by volume is retained permanently when the snow transforms into ice. Parameters measured were the sizes, shapes, abundances, spatial distributions, gas volumes and pressures of bubbles, and their variations with depth in the ice sheet. Bubbles occur abundantly in the top 800 m of ice but then gradually disappear until they can no longer be detected optically below 1100 m. This disappearance is not accompanied by any significant loss of air from the ice and all available evidence indicates that the air actually diffuses into the ice in response to increasing overburden pressure. The possibility exists that the dissolved gases are retained in the form of a gas hydrate or clathrate which, because of release of confining pressures, begins to decompose soon after ice cores are pulled to the surface. This decomposition is accompanied by the growth of gas-filled bubble-like cavities, and as much as 40% of the dissolved air has exsolved already from some cores in the space of less than three years. Bubble pressure measurements show that 1) bubbles with pressures exceeding about 16 bars begin to relax back to this value soon after in situ pressures are relieved by drilling, 2) further slow decompression occurs with time, and 3) the rate of decompression is controlled to some extent by the intrinsic structural properties of the ice and its thermal and deformational history. Only small variations were observed in the entrapped air content of the ice cores; they probably reflect variations in the temperature and/or pressure of the air at the time of its entrapment, but the data are not sufficient to draw any firm conclusions regarding past variations in ice sheet thickness. Only ice from the bottom 4.83 m was found to lack any detectable trace of air. Since this absence of air coincided precisely with the first appearance of stratified moraine in the cores, it is concluded that this ice originated from the refreezing of air-depleted water produced under pressure melting conditions at the bottom of the ice sheet.
Appears in Collections:CRREL Research Report

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