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The elevation history of ice streams and the spatial accumulation pattern along the Siple Coast of West Antarctica inferred from ground-based radar data from three inter-ice-stream ridges

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Measurements of the surface and internal layer geometry from ice-penetrating radar and global positioning system surveys on three inter-ice-stream ridges in West Antarctica (Siple Dome, ridge DE and ridge BC) are examined with ice-flow models to infer (1) the history of the divide position at each site and (2) the spatial pattern of accumulation across the ridges. We find that the divide position is most steady at Siple Dome, somewhat steady at ridge DE and highly variable at ridge BC. Data from Siple Dome and ridge DE show evidence for steady northward motion of the ice divide for the past few thousand years. The layers beneath ridge BC suggest a 5 km northward shift of the divide position within the past several hundred years. Assuming the divide shifts are all due to changing elevation of the bounding ice streams, we infer the relative elevation history for segments of Ice Streams B-E. The northward displacement of the divide for all ridges implies a progressive relative thinning of the ice streams from E to B, with most dramatic recent thinning (100 m in <103 years) of Ice Stream B relative to Ice Stream C. Analysis of the internal layer pattern across the ridges indicates a south-north accumulation gradient with higher accumulation rates on the northern flanks of the ridges in all three cases. The inferred accumulation distribution is nearly uniform on the northern flanks, decreases sharply within a few ice thicknesses across the divides, and then decreases gradually farther to the south. The north/south decrease is strongest for ridge DE and weakest for ridge BC. This spatial pattern and the reduction in gradient strength with distance from the Amundsen Sea is consistent with the hypothesis that storms from the Amundsen Sea carry moisture first south then west over West Antarctica and deposit more snow on the windward side of ridges due to orographic lifting. This pattern has been stable for at least the past several thousand years.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2001

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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