Developing a bubble number-density paleoclimatic indicator for glacier ice

M. K. Spencer, R. B. Alley, J. J. Fitzpatrick

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Past accumulation rate can be estimated from the measured number-density of bubbles in an ice core and the reconstructed paleotemperature, using a new technique. Density increase and grain growth in polar firn are both controlled by temperature and accumulation rate, and the integrated effects are recorded in the number-density of bubbles as the firn changes to ice. An empirical model of these processes, optimized to fit published data on recently formed bubbles, reconstructs accumulation rates using recent temperatures with an uncertainty of 41% (P < 0.05). For modern sites considered here, no statistically significant trend exists between mean annual temperature and the ratio of bubble number-density to grain number-density at the time of pore close-off; optimum modeled accumulation-rate estimates require an eventual ∼2.02 ± 0.08 (P < 0.05) bubbles per close-off grain. Bubble number-density in the GRIP (Greenland) ice core is qualitatively consistent with independent estimates for a combined temperature decrease and accumulation-rate increase there during the last 5 kyr.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)358-364
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number178
StatePublished - 2006

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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