Articles | Volume 11, issue 3
Research article
05 May 2017
Research article |  | 05 May 2017

Location and distribution of micro-inclusions in the EDML and NEEM ice cores using optical microscopy and in situ Raman spectroscopy

Jan Eichler, Ina Kleitz, Maddalena Bayer-Giraldi, Daniela Jansen, Sepp Kipfstuhl, Wataru Shigeyama, Christian Weikusat, and Ilka Weikusat

Abstract. Impurities control a variety of physical properties of polar ice. Their impact can be observed at all scales – from the microstructure (e.g., grain size and orientation) to the ice sheet flow behavior (e.g., borehole tilting and closure). Most impurities in ice form micrometer-sized inclusions. It has been suggested that these µ inclusions control the grain size of polycrystalline ice by pinning of grain boundaries (Zener pinning), which should be reflected in their distribution with respect to the grain boundary network. We used an optical microscope to generate high-resolution large-scale maps (3 µm pix−1, 8 × 2 cm2) of the distribution of micro-inclusions in four polar ice samples: two from Antarctica (EDML, MIS 5.5) and two from Greenland (NEEM, Holocene). The in situ positions of more than 5000 µ inclusions have been determined. A Raman microscope was used to confirm the extrinsic nature of a sample proportion of the mapped inclusions. A superposition of the 2-D grain boundary network and µ-inclusion distributions shows no significant correlations between grain boundaries and µ inclusions. In particular, no signs of grain boundaries harvesting µ inclusions could be found and no evidence of µ inclusions inhibiting grain boundary migration by slow-mode pinning could be detected. Consequences for our understanding of the impurity effect on ice microstructure and rheology are discussed.

Short summary
This study contributes to investigations of the effect of impurities on ice microstructure and flow properties. For the first time we mapped over 5000 micro-inclusions in four samples from the EDML and NEEM polar ice cores. The particle distributions show no correlation with grain boundaries and thus we conclude that particle pinning plays only a secondary role for the microstructure evolution. Alternative mechanisms are discussed.