The relevance of grain dissection for grain size reduction in polar ice: insights from numerical models and ice core microstructure analysis

Florian Steinbach, Ernst Jan N. Kuiper, Jan Eichler, Paul D. Bons, Martyn R. Drury, Albert Griera, Gill M. Pennock, Ilka Weikusat

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9 Citations (Scopus)


© 2017 Steinbach, Kuiper, Eichler, Bons, Drury, Griera, Pennock and Weikusat. The flow of ice depends on the properties of the aggregate of individual ice crystals, such as grain size or lattice orientation distributions. Therefore, an understanding of the processes controlling ice micro-dynamics is needed to ultimately develop a physically based macroscopic ice flow law. We investigated the relevance of the process of grain dissection as a grain-size-modifying process in natural ice. For that purpose, we performed numerical multi-process microstructure modeling and analyzed microstructure and crystallographic orientation maps from natural deep ice-core samples from the North Greenland Eemian Ice Drilling (NEEM) project. Full crystallographic orientations measured by electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) have been used together with c-axis orientations using an optical technique (Fabric Analyser). Grain dissection is a feature of strain-induced grain boundary migration. During grain dissection, grain boundaries bulge into a neighboring grain in an area of high dislocation energy and merge with the opposite grain boundary. This splits the high dislocation-energy grain into two parts, effectively decreasing the local grain size. Currently, grain size reduction in ice is thought to be achieved by either the progressive transformation from dislocation walls into new high-angle grain boundaries, called subgrain rotation or polygonisation, or bulging nucleation that is assisted by subgrain rotation. Both our time-resolved numerical modeling and NEEM ice core samples show that grain dissection is a common mechanism during ice deformation and can provide an efficient process to reduce grain sizes and counter-act dynamic grain-growth in addition to polygonisation or bulging nucleation. Thus, our results show that solely strain-induced boundary migration, in absence of subgrain rotation, can reduce grain sizes in polar ice, in particular if strain energy gradients are high. We describe the microstructural characteristics that can be used to identify grain dissection in natural microstructures.
Original languageEnglish
Article number66
JournalFrontiers in Earth Science
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2017


  • Cryo-ebsd
  • Dynamic recrystallization
  • Fabric analyser
  • Grain dissection
  • Grain size evolution
  • Ice deformation
  • Ice microstructure modeling
  • Neem ice core

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