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Ploughing of subglacial sediment

  • URS H. Fischer (a1) and Garry K. C. Clarke (a1)


Mechanical conditions at the base of Trapridge Glacier, Yukon Territory, were investigated using a “ploughmeter”. We describe the physical characteristics and the theory of this new instrument as well as its operation. Observational results reveal variations in ploughmeter response that might be attributed to spatial variability in subglacial processes or spatial variation in sediment granulometry. Quantitative analysis of the interaction of the ploughmeter with the basal layer yields estimates of rheological parameters. If the sediment is assumed to behave as a Newtonian viscous fluid, the estimated effective viscosity is 3.0 × 109 −3.1 × 1010Pas; if it is assumed to behave as an ideal plastic solid, the estimated yield strength is 48–57 kPa. In both cases, the estimated shear resistance of subglacial material is comparable to but somewhat less than that required to balance fully the applied basal shear stress.

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