A new method of electromagnetic sounding in resistive electrical environments has been developed for use in lunar exploration. It is applicable to the study of terrestrial glaciers and ice sheets. A horizontal electric dipole antenna on the ground is used to transmit power at frequencies of 1, 2, 4, 8, 16 and 32 MHz. A set of orthogonal receiving coils is mounted on a vehicle which traverses away from the transmitter. Field strength is recorded as a function of distance. Waves which travel above the surface interfere with waves from the subsurface, generating interference patterns which can be used to determine the dielectric constant, the loss tangent, and depth to reflecting horizons.
The technique was tested on the Athabasca Glacier in western Canada. At 1, 2 and 4 MHz the ice was found to have a dielectric constant of about 3.3, a loss tangent (tan δ) which is roughly inversely proportional to frequency giving values of f tan δ in the range 0.25 to 0.35 (where f is in MHz). These values correspond well with the known properties of ice near 0° C, which is a temperature typical of temperate glaciers. It has been possible to determine the depth of the ice but results are not always consistent with previous seismic and gravity surveys and with drilling. At frequencies of 16 and 32 MHz, scattering is the dominant feature of the results. At 8 MHz there is a transition from clear-cut interference patterns to the scattering patterns. From these findings, we suggest that the Athabasca Glacier has a large number of dielectric scatterers with dimensions less than about 35 m, probably due in large part to crevasses.