Acoustic impedance and basal shear stress beneath four Antarctic ice streams

The acoustic impedance of the subglacial material beneath 7.2 km profiles on four ice streams in Antarctica has been measured using a seismic technique. The ice streams span a wide range, of dynamic conditions with flow rates of 35-464 in a(-1). The acoustic impedance indicates that poorly lithified or dilated sedimentary material is ubiquitous beneath these ice streams. Mean acoustic impedance across each profile correlates well with basal shear stress and the slipperiness of the bed, indicating that acoustic impedance is a good diagnostic not only for the porosity of the subglacial material, but also for its dynamic state (deforming or non-deforming). Beneath two of the ice streams, lodged (non-deforming) and dilated (deforming) sediment coexist but their distribution is not obviously controlled by basal topography or ice thickness. Their distribution may be controlled by complex material properties or the deformation history. Beneath Rutford Ice Stream, lodged and dilated sediment coexist and are distributed in broad bands several kilometres wide, while on Talutis Inlet there is considerable variability over much shorter distances; this may reflect differences in the mechanism of drainage beneath the ice streams. The material beneath the slow-moving Carlson Inlet is probably lodged but unlithified sediment; this is consistent with the hypothesis that Carlson Inlet was once a fast-flowing ice stream but is now in a stagnant phase, which could possibly be revived by raised basal water content. The entire bed beneath fast-flowing Evans Ice Stream is dilated sediment.


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Authors: Vaughan, David G. ORCIDORCID record for David G. Vaughan, Smith, Andrew M. ORCIDORCID record for Andrew M. Smith, Nath, P. Chandrika, Le Meur, Emmanuel

On this site: Andy Smith, David Vaughan
1 January, 2003
Annals of Glaciology / 36
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