New data on the thermal regime of George VI Ice Shelf have been obtained by thermistor chains installed through the use of a hot-water drill. Twenty thermistors are used at each site, spaced close together at sea-level and at the base of the ice shelf, and farther apart elsewhere in the ice shelf and in the sea beneath. Based on earlier observations (Bishop and Walton 1981, fig. 7) that the 10 m temperature warms from around −10°C in the central melt-lake area of the ice shelf (from 70°45′ to 71°45′S) to around −2°C near the northern ice front (70°00′S), the thermistor chains were deployed at three sites (70°00′, 70°15′ and 70°30′S) along a presumed flow line.
The observations show that as ice flows towards the northern ice front of George VI Ice Shelf, it becomes more temperate in character. Heat from the sea and from the percolation of melt water at the upper surface progressively warms the ice shelf. At mid-depth (the coldest level in the ice shelf) the recorded temperatures were −6°C off Moore Point (70°30′S), −4°C off Carse Point (70°15′S) and, near the northern ice front (70°00′S), between −1.6° and −1.8°C depending on the time of year.
The ice-shelf temperatures near the ice front, warmer in mid-summer than the freezing point of fully saline sea-water, are most unusual. The only explanation of the high, fluctuating temperatures found 1 year after drilling is that the hole through the ice shelf was open, allowing unimpeded water movement. This implies that the ice shelf is also warmed by the percolation of sea-water, whose presence was confirmed by ice-core drilling to below sea-level. Confirmation of the presence of brine below sea-level in the ice shelf comes from geo-electrical investigations. A Schlumberger georesistivity array modelled the ice shelf as a simple two-layer structure, with ordinary glacier overlying highly conductive ice. This is consistent with the fact that no radio echoes have been received from the bottom of George VI Ice Shelf to the north of 70°09′S.
A detailed analysis of the ice-shelf / ocean-temperature profiles was undertaken. This included an analysis of the fluctuation observed in mid-summer at the warmest site and the subsequent transition to a stable isothermal profile through the submerged part of the ice shelf.