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Observations of the grounding-line area at a floating glacier terminus

  • Ross D. Powell (a1), Michael Dawber (a1), James N. McInnes (a1) and Alex R. Pyne (a2)

Abstract

A robotic submarine was used for the first observations of a grounding-line area of a floating glacier. The site was Mackay Glacier which terminates as a floating glacier tongue in the Ross Sea, at latitude 77°S. Half of the 20 m thick basal debris layers in Mackay Glacier are deposited as subglacial till in the last 1.8 km that the glacier remains grounded. Subglacial till observed at and beyond the grounding line varies rapidly in texture and rheology spatially, occurring as a flat sheet, as flow-parallel flutes, or as bank forms into which it has been pushed at the grounding line. Very little free- flowing subglacial water was present during the observations, and no major subglacial water discharges appear to have occurred in the past. The other half of the basal debris is melted out up to 1.5 km in front of the grounding line, producing a sheet of glacimarine sediment as shelfstone diamicton and mud draped on subglacial till. Both till and glacimarine sediment may be turbated by icebergs. This simple model of till overlain by shelfstone diamicton and mud is a direct contrast to sedimentary depositional systems at tide-water termini of temperate glaciers.

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References

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Observations of the grounding-line area at a floating glacier terminus

  • Ross D. Powell (a1), Michael Dawber (a1), James N. McInnes (a1) and Alex R. Pyne (a2)

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