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Title: The role of grain size evolution in the rheology of ice: implications for reconciling laboratory creep data and the Glen flow law
Abstract. Viscous flow in ice is often described by the Glen flow law – anon-Newtonian, power-law relationship between stress and strain rate with astress exponent n ∼ 3. The Glen law is attributed tograin-size-insensitive dislocation creep; however, laboratory and fieldstudies demonstrate that deformation in ice can be strongly dependent ongrain size. This has led to the hypothesis that at sufficiently lowstresses, ice flow is controlled by grain boundary sliding, which explicitly incorporates the grain size dependence of ice rheology. Experimental studiesfind that neither dislocation creep (n ∼ 4) nor grain boundarysliding (n ∼ 1.8) have stress exponents that match the value ofn ∼ 3 in the Glen law. Thus, although the Glen law provides anapproximate description of ice flow in glaciers and ice sheets, itsfunctional form is not explained by a single deformation mechanism. Here weseek to understand the origin of the n ∼ 3 dependence of theGlen law by using the “wattmeter” to model grain size evolution in ice.The wattmeter posits that grain size is controlled by a balance between themechanical work required for grain growth and dynamic grain size reduction.Using the wattmeter, we calculate grain size evolution in two end-membercases: (1) a 1-D shear zone and (2) as a function of depth within anice sheet. Calculated grain sizes match both laboratory data and ice coreobservations for the interior of ice sheets. Finally, we show thatvariations in grain size with deformation conditions result in an effectivestress exponent intermediate between grain boundary sliding and dislocationcreep, which is consistent with a value of n = 3 ± 0.5 over the rangeof strain rates found in most natural systems.  more » « less
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Date Published:
Journal Name:
The Cryosphere
Page Range / eLocation ID:
4589 to 4605
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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