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Bed radar reflectivity across the north margin of Whillans Ice Stream, West Antarctica, and implications for margin processes

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Surface-based ice-penetrating radar profiles were made across the active north margin (the Snake) of the upper part of Whillans Ice Stream (formerly Ice Stream B, branch B2), West Antarctica, at three locations. Low frequency (about 2 MHz) and the ground deployment of the radar allowed penetration through the near-surface zone of fracturing to detect internal layering and bed reflection characteristics on continuous profiles spanning from the slow-moving ice of Engelhardt Ridge well into the chaotic zone of the shear margin. Internal layers were tracked beneath the chaotic zone, where they are warped but remain continuous. The energy returned from internal layers showed no systematic changes associated with the transition from the undisturbed surface of the slow-moving ice into the fractured surface of the shear margin, thus indicating little effect from the surface crevasses on the penetration of the radar signal. Based on this calibration of the near-surface effects and corrections for path length, spreading and attenuation, we examine the spatial variation of bed reflectivity. Low bed reflectivity found under Engelhardt Ridge extends under the chaotic zone of the margin into fast-moving ice. We argue that the fast motion in a band along the margin is mediated by processes other than deformation of thick dilated till that is the source of lubrication allowing fast motion in the interior of the ice stream.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2006

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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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