I'm writing a scientific paper in which I'm describing a process affecting the sliding of an object (a glacier in this case). This process resists both acceleration and deceleration. I'm currently saying that it acts as a "buffer" but I feel that doesn't properly describe the property I'm referring to.

Does it?

Are there other nouns (or phrases) that can be used in this case?

Here is the paragraph in its current form for more context:

Isolated cavities display persistent high water pressures, often close to overburden. Therefore, under steady basal sliding speeds, they would offer little resistance to movement. However, their fixed volume would result in a pressure drop if sliding accelerates, or a pressure increase if it decelerates. In other words they can act either as sticky spots when basal sliding speeds up or as slippery spots when it slows down, working as a buffer for basal sliding variations.

  • 1
    I don't see a problem with buffer personally, but your paragraph does have some other problems. // Note you used buffer as a noun, not an adjective. (There's also a verb as you probably know.) Apr 25, 2018 at 2:46
  • I got all exited and wrote up an answer using the word attenuate dictionary.com/browse/attenuate but I think it only focuses on range when used with electronics ? dictionary.com/browse/attenuator?s=t I do think it could be understood to applie to velocity range modifying other words but then it misses the point of brevity
    – Tom22
    Apr 25, 2018 at 3:32
  • You're the science writer and you're asking about what makes glaciers resist changes in velocity? There's an Earth sciences SE site just to let you know.
    – Zebrafish
    Apr 25, 2018 at 4:05
  • @Zebrafish I'm a frequent collaborator of Earth Sciences SE. I'm not asking about the science, but about the wording. Apr 25, 2018 at 4:07
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    I agree with Cuagau, but he needs to provide evidence for his answer. What you should do is pay attention to your basic English if you are writing scientifically for a living — present tense third person "s" for example. I have corrected (most) of the mistakes in your question.
    – David
    Apr 25, 2018 at 8:22

3 Answers 3


In chemistry, a buffer resists changes in its acidity, or some other state, rather than velocity, specifically.

Therefore, I'd consider "mass" and "inertia" (as in "inertia tensor"). These specifically characterize resistance to changes in velocity.


negative feedback loop


If velocity increases, the system works to decrease it towards a given point. If velocity decreases, the system works to increase it towards the same point. These two processes, based on your paragraph, converge towards a constant basal sliding state.


Buffer is absolutely the right word, in its less common definition of "something that lessens a change that would otherwise occur" (e.g. pH buffer), and your meaning is totally clear to me.

  • We're looking for answers that provide some explanation and context. Please explain why your answer is right, ideally with citations. Answers that don't include explanations may be removed.
    – David
    Apr 25, 2018 at 8:25

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