Instruments and methods: A case study of ice core bubbles as strain indicators

John M. Fegyveresi, Richard B. Alley, Donald E. Voigt, Joan J. Fitzpatrick, Lawrence A. Wilen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Measurements of a sample from ~580 m depth in the WAIS Divide (WDC06A) ice core reveal that bubbles are preferentially elongated in the basal plane of their parent grain, as expected if bubble shape preserves the record of dominant basal glide. This suggests that a method using bubbles as strain gauges could provide insights to grain-scale ice deformation. We introduce a technique using fabric and image analyses of paired thin and thick sections. Comparison of the crystallographic orientations of 148 grains and the shape orientations of 2377 intragrain bubbles reveals a strongly preferred elongation of bubbles in the grain basal planes (R2 = 0.96). Elongation magnitudes are consistent with a balance between ice flow deformation and diffusive restoration, with larger bubbles more elongated. Assuming bubbles record ice strain, grains with greater resolved stress on their basal planes from the far-field ice flow stresses show greater deformation, but with large variability suggesting that heterogeneity of the local stress field causes deformation even in unfavorably oriented grains. A correlation is also observed among bubble elongation, grain size, and bubble size, explaining a small but significant fraction of the variance ( P< 0.05), with implications for controls on ice deformation, as discussed here.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)8-19
Number of pages12
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number78
StatePublished - Apr 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Earth-Surface Processes


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