Observations of the preferential loss of major ions from melting snow and laboratory ice

P. Brimblecombe, S. L. Clegg, T. D. Davies, D. Shooter, M. Tranter

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Two types of laboratory experiments were undertaken to understand changes in the ionic composition of solutions from melting snows: (1) a set of field-laboratory experiments which involved partially melting recently collected snows and (2) experiments on the controlled melting of artificial ices of known composition. Sulphate and nitrate ions are preferentially lost with respect to chloride during the melting process so apparent elution sequence may be written SO42− > NO3− > Cl−. Of the cations, sodium appears to be removed least readily giving an elution sequence Mg2+ = K+ > Na+. In the laboratory the differences in the efficiency of removal of ions from ice are small in the first stages of melting, but pronounced by the end of the melt. Sodium and chloride are expected to be proportionally enriched in residual leached snow packs. This is generally born out by field observations. The preferential loss of some ions is more evident in aged laboratory ice than in the freshly made ice. The changes in the ice and meltwater composition throughout the process of melting may be understood to arise from the mixing of two types of solutions: (i) an intergranular surficial brine with high solute concentration that occupies the ice grain boundaries and (ii) the meltwater from the ice grains.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1279-1286
Number of pages8
JournalWater Research
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1987

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