Rapid and accurate polarimetric radar measurements of ice crystal fabric orientation at the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide deep ice core site [in review]

The Crystal Orientation Fabric (COF) of ice sheets records the past history of ice sheet deformation and influences present-day ice flow dynamics. Though not widely implemented, coherent ice-penetrating radar is able to detect anisotropic COF patterns by exploiting the birefringence of ice crystals at radar frequencies. Most previous radar studies quantify COF at a coarse azimuthal resolution limited by the number of observations made with a pair of antennas along an acquisition plane that rotates around an azimuth centre. In this study, we instead conduct a suite of quad-polarimetric measurements consisting of four orthogonal antenna orientation combinations at the Western Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide Deep Ice Core site. From these measurements, we are able to quantify COF at this site to a depth of 1500 m at azimuthal and depth resolutions of up to 1° and 15 m. Our estimates of fabric asymmetry closely match corresponding fabric estimates directly measured from the WAIS Divide Deep Ice Core. While ice core studies are often unable to determine the absolute fabric orientation due to core rotation during extraction, we are able to unambiguously identify and conclude that the fabric orientation is depth-invariant to at least 1500 m, equivalent to 7400 years BP (years before 1950), and coincides exactly with the modern surface strain direction at WAIS Divide. Our results support the claim that the deformation regime at WAIS Divide has not changed substantially through the majority of the Holocene. Rapid polarimetric determination of bulk COF compares well with much more laborious sample-based COF measurements from thin ice sections. Because it is the former that ultimately influences ice flow, these polarimetric radar methods provide an opportunity for accurate and widespread mapping of bulk COF and its incorporation into ice flow models.


Publication status:
Published Online
Authors: Young, Tun Jan, Martin, Carlos ORCIDORCID record for Carlos Martin, Christoffersen, Poul, Schroeder, Dustin M., Tulaczyk, Slawek M., Dawson, Eliza J.

On this site: Carlos Martin Garcia
28 September, 2020
The Cryosphere: Discussions
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