Depolarization of radio waves can distinguish between floating and grounded ice sheets
Polar ice is now thought to be marginally birefringent at radio echo-sounding frequencies. An experiment on the polarization behaviour of 60 MHz radio echoes from the bed of both ice shelf and land ice in Antarctica showed a marked difference in the returned polarization. It appears that differences in electrical properties or roughness of the reflecting boundary cannot explain our results. We suggest that there is a large change in the birefringence of the ice sheet at the hinge zone, caused by the effect of tidal strain on crystal orientation. This would imply a minimum value of the radio-frequency anisotropy in permittivity for the single crystal of (0.52±0.8)%. Therefore polarization changes could allow floating and grounded ice to be distinguished.