Effects of firn ventilation on isotopic exchange

  • Neumann T
  • Waddington E
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A new model of isotopic diffusion in the upper few meters of firn tracks the isotopic composition of both the ice matrix and the pore-space vapor through time in two dimensions. Stable isotopes in the vapor phase move through the firn by diffusion along concentration gradients and by advection. Wind-driven ventilation carries atmospheric water vapor into the firn, where it mixes with existing pore-space vapor. Unlike previous models, our model allows disequilibrium between pore-space vapor and the surrounding snow grains. We also calculate the isotopic effects of ventilation-driven sublimation and condensation in the firn. Model predictions of isotopic diffusion in firn compare favorably with existing diffusion models. Model results quantify what other investigators have suggested: isotopic change in the upper few meters is more rapid than can be explained by the Whillans and Grootes (1985) model; isotopic equilibration with atmospheric vapor is an important component of post-depositional isotopic change; and ventilation enhances isotopic exchange by creating regions of relatively rapid sublimation and condensation in the firn.

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  • Thomas A. Neumann

  • Edwin D. Waddington

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