Stratigraphic analysis of firn cores from an antarctic ice shelf firn aquifer

Shelley Macdonell, Francisco Fernandoy, Paula Villar, Arno Hammann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In recent decades, several large ice shelves in the Antarctic Peninsula region have experienced significant ice loss, likely driven by a combination of oceanic, atmospheric and hydrological processes. All three areas need further research, however, in the case of the role of liquid water the first concern is to address the paucity of field measurements. Despite this shortage of field observations, several authors have proposed the existence of firn aquifers on Antarctic ice shelves, however little is known about their distribution, formation, extension and role in ice shelf mechanics. In this study we present the discovery of saturated firn at three drill sites on the Müller Ice Shelf (67°14' S; 66°52' W), which leads us to conclude that either a large contiguous or several disconnected smaller firn aquifers exist on this ice shelf. From the stratigraphic analysis of three short firn cores extracted during February 2019 we describe a new classification system to identify the structures and morphological signatures of refrozen meltwater, identify evidence of superficial meltwater percolation, and use this information to propose a conceptual model of firn aquifer development on the Müller Ice Shelf. The detailed stratigraphic analysis of the sampled cores will provide an invaluable baseline for modelling studies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number731
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2021


  • Antarctica
  • Firn aquifer
  • Glacier hydrology
  • Ice core
  • Ice shelf
  • Stratigraphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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