Enhanced Firn Densification in High-Accumulation Shear Margins of the NE Greenland Ice Stream

K. L. Riverman, R. B. Alley, S. Anandakrishnan, K. Christianson, N. D. Holschuh, B. Medley, A. Muto, L. E. Peters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Firn thickness across the NE Greenland Ice Stream is a function of accumulated strain, with thinner firn in the high-strain margins of the ice stream. We present a novel technique for extracting firn density from previously collected seismic reflection profiles and apply this technique across both shear margins of NE Greenland Ice Stream. Firn is up to 30 m thinner in the vicinity of the ice stream shear margins. Snow accumulation rates across the ice stream were calculated from airborne ice-penetrating radar data, calibrated with ground-based firn density measurements from a shallow core. We find that accumulation is ~20% higher in the shear margins compared to the surroundings. The higher density firn adjacent to shear margins is due to high along-flow stresses that accelerate firn densification and develops despite the higher accumulation rate favoring lower density. These firn density variations influence subglacial hydropotential by changing the ice surface slope and overburden pressure and may influence subglacial water flow. These results demonstrate the importance of high-resolution firn surveys in studies of shear-margin dynamics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)365-382
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics


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