Sulphuric acid at grain boundaries in Antarctic ice

Abstract

It has been suggested1,2 that acids in the cold polar ice sheets may exist as aqueous mixtures at grain boundaries. This assumption can correctly predict the d.c. conductivity of polar ice2, but this does not prove the existence of acids or liquid veins at grain boundaries, and this remains controversial3–5. In this study we used a scanning electron microscope (SEM), equipped with a cold stage and an energy-dispersive X-ray microanalysis facility, to determine the location of sulphur in ice from the Antarctic Peninsula. As expected, sulphur was undetectable in the bulk of the ice. However, at the junctions where three grains met (triple-junctions), sulphur was found in concentrations greater than 1 M in areas of < 1 μm2. Calculations show that between 40 and 100% of the sulphuric acid present in this ice was found at the triple-junctions, and would have been liquid at ice-sheet temperatures. This finding, if general, has considerable implications for many of the physical properties of polar ice.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.

from$8.99

All prices are NET prices.

References

  1. 1

    Maccagnan, M. & Duval, P. Ann. Glaciol. 3, 195–198 (1982).

  2. 2

    Wolff, E. W. & Paren, J. G. J. geophys. Res. 89, 9433–9438 (1984).

  3. 3

    Hammer, C. U. J. Phys., Paris, 48, C1, 651 (1987).

  4. 4

    Legrand, M., Petit, J-R. & Korotkevich, Y. S. J. Phys., Paris 48, C1, 605–611 (1987).

  5. 5

    Schwander, J., Neftel, A., Oeschger, H. & Stauffer, B. J. phys. Chem. 87, 4157–4160 (1983).

  6. 6

    Mulvaney, R. & Peel, D. A. Ann. Glaciol. 10 (in the press).

  7. 7

    Wyness, L. E., Morris, J. A., Oates, K., Staff, W. G. & Huddart, H. J. Path. 153, 61–69 (1987).

  8. 8

    Russ, J. C. J. submicrosp. Cytol. 6, 55–79 (1974).

  9. 9

    Brombach, J. D. J. Micro. Biol. cell. 22, 233–238 (1975).

  10. 10

    Oates, K. & Potts, W. T. W. Micron. microsc. Acta 16, 1–4 (1985).

  11. 11

    Nye, J. F. & Frank, F. C. Proc. Symp. on Hydrology of Glaciers IAHS Publ. 95, 157–161 (International Association of Hydrological Sciences, Gentbrugge, Belgium, 1973).

  12. 12

    Lliboutry, L. J. Glaciol. 10, 15–29 (1971).

  13. 13

    Paren, J. G. & Walker, J. C. F. Nature phys. Sci. 230, 77–79 (1971).

  14. 14

    Davies, T. D., Vincent, C. E. & Brimblecombe, P. Nature 300, 161–163 (1982).

Download references

Author information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Mulvaney, R., Wolff, E. & Oates, K. Sulphuric acid at grain boundaries in Antarctic ice. Nature 331, 247–249 (1988). https://doi.org/10.1038/331247a0

Download citation

Further reading

Comments

By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.