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Effects of basal sliding on isochrones and flow near an ice divide

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If an ice sheet is frozen to its bed, deep ice directly under a divide experiences low deviatoric stress and is relatively hard, because the rheology of polar ice is described by a power-law constitutive relation. In steady state, stratigraphic layers tend to form an arch ("Raymond bump") in this region. However, when the basal ice can slide, the stresses are redistributed, and longitudinal extension due to sliding is associated with increased deviatoric stress in the deep ice under the divide. This increased deviatoric stress weakens the tendency to form a Raymond bump. To find a realistic spatial distribution of sliding under an ice divide, we incorporate a thin layer of viscous till in a finite-element plane-strain flow model. The resulting basal "sliding" velocity varies approximately linearly with distance from the ice divide. By varying the till viscosity, we can adjust the amount of basal motion. We find that the Raymond bump decays exponentially with the fraction of total ice flux carried by sliding: the arch is 50% smaller when the sliding flux is only 7% of the total ice flux. This implies that the possibility of a wet bed must be considered when inferring past ice-divide locations from radar internal layering.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 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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