Measurements of strain rate are used to describe the stress distribution at the lateral margin of an active West Antarctic ice stream. The goal is to describe the way in which drag at the sides operates to control the motion of this ice stream. The problem is inherently complex, but with some approximations a mainly analytic solution is obtained. Allowing for spatially varying ice strength shows that the shear strain rate decreases over a larger distance from the ice stream than for ice of uniform strength. The simplest explanation using the results of field measurements is that the upper 40% of the ice stream is able to support lateral stress. For the slow-moving interstream ridge, rather more of the thickness is strong. The lateral shear stress from the ice stream is transferred to a basal zone about 3 km wide where basal drag reaches 60 kPa. This basal zone controls the speed of the ice stream.
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.