Horizontal ice flow impacts the firn structure of Greenland's percolation zone

Rosemary Leone, Joel Harper, Toby Meierbachtol, Neil Humphrey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


One-dimensional simulations of firn evolution neglect horizontal advection from ice flow, which transports the firn column across climate gradients as it is buried by accumulation. Using a suite of model runs, we demonstrate the impacts of horizontal advection on the development of firn density, temperature, and the stratigraphy of melt features through the Greenland ice sheet percolation zone. The simulations isolate processes in synthetic runs and investigate four specific transects and an ice core site. Relative to onedimensional simulations, the horizontal advection process tends to increase the pore close-off depth, reduce the heat content, and decrease the frequency of melt features with depth by emplacing firn sourced from higher locations under increasingly warm and melt-affected surface conditions. Preservation of the advected pore space and cold content is strongly dependent upon the depth of meltwater infiltration. Horizontal ice flow interacts with topography, climate gradients, and meltwater infiltration to influence the evolution of the firn column structure; the interaction between these variables modulates the impact of horizontal advection on firn at locations around Greenland. Pore close-off and firn temperature are mainly impacted in the lowermost 20 30 km of the percolation zone, which may be relevant to migration of the lower percolation zone. Relatively high in the percolation zone, however, the stratigraphy of melt features can have an advection-derived component that should not be conflated with changing climate.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1703-1712
Number of pages10
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 29 2020


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