Electrical resistivity measurements were made along two perpendicular profiles on the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica, in 1973–74. Apparent resistivities are generally well determined at electrode separations from 10 m out to 600 m, where the effect of the highly conducting sea-water beneath the shelf becomes strongly fell. Schlumberger and equatorial-dipole data are in excellent agreement on each profile; apparent resistivities on the two profiles, however, differ by about 12% at separations greater than about 30 m. This apparent anisotropy is attributed to a presumed inhomogeneity at a few tens of meters depth, rather than to true anisotropy in the bulk resistivity.
A computer program has been developed to calculate apparent resistivities on an ice shelf in which the density and temperature, and thus the resistivity, vary continuously with depth. Temperatures have been calculated according to the analysis of Crary (1961 [b]) for a steady-state ice shelf; densities have been calculated from seismic velocity data. Several different models of the dependence of resistivity on density have been tested—one appears to fit the observations very closely, but it must be accepted only with great caution because the assumptions on which it is based are violated in the ice shelf.
The activation energy and the rate of bottom melting or freezing upon which the temperature-depth variations depend have been treated as variable parameters in the modeling. The most satisfactory model corresponds to a melt/freeze rate close to zero, and an activation energy, 0.25 eV (24 kJ mol−1), in agreement with laboratory measurements on Antarctic ice samples, although less than that suggested by previous field measurements. However, since the actual temperatures in the ice shelf are unknown, models that combine a substantial melt rate with a higher activation energy, or a substantial freeze rate with a lower activation energy, cannot be ruled out at present. Future measurements in places where the temperature profile is known should resolve this uncertainty.
The actual resistivity in the solid ice at a depth of about 100 m (temperature about —23°C), lies within ±10% of 70000 Ω m, thus once again confirming the very low resistivities typical of polar glacial ice. The resistivity is, in fact, only about half that found near Roosevelt Island to the north and “Byrd” station to the east. That difference is believed to be real, but its cause is not known and probably will not be known until the basic cause for the generally low resistivity of polar ice is better understood.