Instruments and Methods Crystal orientation measurements using transmission and backscattering

Wing S. Chan, Merlin L. Mah, Donald E. Voight, Joan J. Fitzpatrick, Joseph J. Talghader

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A method has been devised and tested for measuring the c-axis orientation of crystal grains in thin sections of glacier ice. The crystal orientation and grain size of ice are of great interest to glaciologists since these parameters contain information on the prior thermal and flow history of the ice. The traditional method of determining c-axis orientation involves a transmission measurement through an ice sample, a process that is time-consuming and therefore impractical for obtaining a continuous record. A reflection- or backscatter-based method could potentially be used inside boreholes, with bubbles as reflectors to avoid such drawbacks. The concept demonstration of this paper is performed on ice slices, enabling a direct comparison of accuracy with traditional methods. Measurements of the crystal orientations (θin 11 grains showed an average error of ±0.8° in θ, with no grain error >1.4° . Measurements of θ showed an average error of ±8.2° on ten grains, with unexplained disagreement on the remaining grain. Although the technique is applied specifically to glacier ice, it should be generally applicable to any transparent birefringent polycrystalline material.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1084-1092
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number224
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014


  • Glaciological instruments and methods
  • Ice core
  • Ice crystal studies
  • Ice physics


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