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Estimation of glacier thicknesses and basal properties using the horizontal-to-vertical component spectral ratio (HVSR) technique from passive seismic data



Microtremor measurements and the horizontal-to-vertical spectral ratio (HVSR) technique, generally used for site effect studies as well as to determine the thickness of soft sedimentary layers, can effectively be applied to map the thickness of glaciers. In this work the radio-echo sounding, geoelectric and active seismic methods, widely employed to image the earth interior, are applied to verify the reliability of the HVSR technique in Alpine and Antarctic glacial environments. The technique has been used to analyze passive seismic data from glaciers of the Adamello and Ortles-Cevedale massifs (Italy), the Bernese Oberland Alps (Switzerland) and from the Whillans Ice Stream (West Antarctica). Comparing with the results obtained from the different geophysical imaging methods, we show that the resonance frequency in the HVSR spectra correlates well with the ice thickness at the site, in a wide range from a few tens of meters to more than 800 m. The reliability of the method mainly depends on the coupling of sensors at the glacier surface and on the basal impedance contrast. This passive seismic technique offers a logistically efficient and cost effective method to map glacier and ice-sheet thicknesses. Moreover, under certain conditions, it allows reliable estimations of the basal seismic properties.

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Correspondence: Stefano Picotti <>


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