Acoustic impedance and basal shear stress beneath four Antarctic ice streams

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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 m 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.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2003

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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