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Inference of accumulation-rate patterns from deep layers in glaciers and ice sheets

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The spatial pattern of accumulation rate can be inferred from internal layers in glaciers and ice sheets. Non-dimensional analysis determines where finite strain can be neglected ('shallow-layer approximation') or approximated with a local one-dimensional flow model ('local-layer approximation'), and where gradients in strain rate along particle paths must be included ('deep layers'). We develop a general geophysical inverse procedure to infer the spatial pattern of accumulation rate along a steady-state flowband, using measured topography of the ice-sheet surface, bed and a 'deep layer'. A variety of thermomechanical ice-flow models can be used in the forward problem to calculate surface topography and ice velocity, which are used to calculate particle paths and internal-layer shapes. An objective tolerance criterion prevents over-fitting the data. After making site-specific simplifications in the thermomechanical flow algorithm, we find the accumulation rate along a flowband through Taylor Mouth, a flank site on Taylor Dome, Antarctica, using a layer at approximately 100 m depth, or 20% of the ice thickness. Accumulation rate correlates with ice-surface curvature. At this site, gradients along flow paths critically impact inference of both the accumulation pattern, and the depth–age relation in a 100 m core.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 1, 2007

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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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