Subglacial bedform and moat initiation beneath Rutford Ice Stream, West Antarctica

The accuracy of sea-level rise predictions is highly dependent on reliably understanding the subglacial environment beneath ice streams. Bedforms result from the interaction between ice and its substrate, and therefore have the potential to shed light on poorly understood basal conditions influencing ice dynamics. However, theoretical models of bedform formation are often based on observations from deglaciated areas or from sparsely-sampled geophysical surveys over glaciated regions. Here, we use high-resolution three- and two-dimensional radar and seismic data to reveal details of the initiation and evolution of a subglacial bedform beneath Rutford Ice Stream, West Antarctica. Radar surveys at 20 m and 50 m line spacing allow detailed imaging of bed topography, including a moat up to 55 m deep, surrounding the upstream end of a 50-m high and >18-km long bedform. Many models rely on either a topographical or a locally resistant seed point to initiate bedform formation. The bedform described here is mostly composed of soft sediment (porosity >0.3) and lacks a boulder or outcrop, suggesting the bedform initiated without a topographic seed point. Sediment at the upstream end of bedforms appears stiffer over a distance of 2.3 km. We suggest sediment inhomogeneities in the initially flat bed cause the deposition of sediment, which, assuming resistant enough, acts as a seed point for bedform extension and moat erosion. The moat's geometry and its truncation of other bedforms suggest that it was eroded after the deposition of surrounding bedforms. These observations from a modern ice stream deliver information of subglacial processes involved in the initiation as well as in situ high-resolution topography and properties of bedforms and moats. Using these observations numerical models can be tested and developed accordingly


Publication status:
Authors: Schlegel, Rebecca ORCIDORCID record for Rebecca Schlegel, Brisbourne, Alex M. ORCIDORCID record for Alex M. Brisbourne, Smith, Andrew M. ORCIDORCID record for Andrew M. Smith, Booth, Adam D., Murray, Tavi, King, Edward C. ORCIDORCID record for Edward C. King, Clark, Roger A.

On this site: Alex Brisbourne, Andy Smith, Ed King, Rebecca Schlegel
16 April, 2024
Geomorphology / 458
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