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The magnitude and azimuth of horizontal ice flow at Camp Century, Greenland have been measured several times since 1963. Here, we provide a further two independent measurements over the 2017–21 period. Our consensus estimate of horizontal ice flow from four independent satellite-positioning solutions is 3.65 ± 0.13 m a−1 at an azimuth of 236 ± 2°. A portion of the small, but significant, differences in ice velocity and azimuth reported between studies likely results from spatial gradients in ice flow. This highlights the importance of restricting inter-study comparisons of ice flow estimates to measurements surveyed within a horizontal distance of one ice thickness from each other. We suggest that ice flow at Camp Century is stable on seasonal to multi-decadal timescales. The airborne and satellite laser altimetry record indicates an ice thickening trend of 1.1 ± 0.3 cm a−1 since 1994. This thickening trend is qualitatively consistent with previously inferred ongoing millennial-scale ice thickening at Camp Century. The ice flow divide immediately north of Camp Century may now be migrating southward, although the reasons for this divide migration are poorly understood. The Camp Century flowlines presently terminate in the vicinity of Innaqqissorsuup Oqquani Sermeq (Gade Gletsjer) on the Melville Bay coast.
Each summer, surface melting of the margin of the Greenland Ice Sheet exposes a distinctive visible stratigraphy that is related to past variability in subaerial dust deposition across the accumulation zone and subsequent ice flow toward the margin. Here we map this surface stratigraphy along the northern margin of the ice sheet using mosaicked Sentinel-2 multispectral satellite imagery from the end of the 2019 melt season and finer-resolution WorldView-2/3 imagery for smaller regions of interest. We trace three distinct transitions in apparent dust concentration and the top of a darker basal layer. The three dust transitions have been identified previously as representing late-Pleistocene climatic transitions, allowing us to develop a coarse margin chronostratigraphy for northern Greenland. Substantial folding of late-Pleistocene stratigraphy is observed but uncommon. The oldest conformal surface-exposed ice in northern Greenland is likely located adjacent to Warming Land and may be up to ~55 thousand years old. Basal ice is commonly exposed hundreds of metres from the ice margin and may indicate a widespread frozen basal thermal state. We conclude that the ice margin across northern Greenland offers multiple opportunities to recover paleoclimatically distinct ice relative to previously studied regions in southwestern Greenland.
Several airborne radar-sounding surveys are used to trace internal reflections around the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica Dome C and Vostok ice core sites. Thirteen reflections, spanning the last two glacial cycles, are traced within 200 km of Dome C, a promising region for million-year-old ice, using the University of Texas Institute for Geophysics High-Capacity Radar Sounder. This provides a dated stratigraphy to 2318 m depth at Dome C. Reflection age uncertainties are calculated from the radar range precision and signal-to-noise ratio of the internal reflections. The radar stratigraphy matches well with the Multichannel Coherent Radar Depth Sounder (MCoRDS) radar stratigraphy obtained independently. We show that radar sounding enables the extension of ice core ages through the ice sheet with an additional radar-related age uncertainty of ~1/3–1/2 that of the ice cores. Reflections are extended along the Byrd-Totten Glacier divide, using University of Texas/Technical University of Denmark and MCoRDS surveys. However, core-to-core connection is impeded by pervasive aeolian terranes, and Lake Vostok's influence on reflection geometry. Poor radar connection of the two ice cores is attributed to these effects and suboptimal survey design in affected areas. We demonstrate that, while ice sheet internal radar reflections are generally isochronal and can be mapped over large distances, careful survey planning is necessary to extend ice core chronologies to distant regions of the East Antarctic ice sheet.
We analyzed the dielectric spectra (0.1 Hz–1 MHz) of 49 firn and ice samples from ice sheets and glaciers to better understand how differing ice formation and evolution affect electrical properties. The dielectric relaxation of ice is well known and its characteristic frequency increases with the concentration of soluble impurities in the ice lattice. We found that meteoric ice and firn generally possess two such relaxations, indicating distinct crystal populations or zonation. Typically, one population is consistent with that of relatively pure ice, and the other is significantly more impure. However, high temperatures (e.g. temperate ice), long residence times (e.g. ancient ice from Mullins Glacier, Antarctica) or anomalously high impurity concentrations favor the development of a single relaxation. These relationships suggest that annealing causes two dielectrically distinct populations to merge into one population. The dielectric response of temperate ice samples indicates increasing purity with increasing depth, suggesting ongoing rejection of impurities from the lattice. Separately, subglacially (lake) frozen samples from the Vostok (Antarctica) 5G ice core possess a single relaxation whose variable characteristic frequency likely reflects the composition of the source water. We conclude that multi-frequency methods are essential to dielectric discrimination between different types of glacier ice.
Recent acceleration and thinning of Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, motivates investigation of the controls upon, and stability of, its present ice-flow pattern. Its eastern shear margin separates Thwaites Glacier from slower-flowing ice and the southern tributaries of Pine Island Glacier. Troughs in Thwaites Glacier’s bed topography bound nearly all of its tributaries, except along this eastern shear margin, which has no clear relationship with regional bed topography along most of its length. Here we use airborne ice-penetrating radar data from the Airborne Geophysical Survey of the Amundsen Sea Embayment, Antarctica (AGASEA) to investigate the nature of the bed across this margin. Radar data reveal slightly higher and rougher bed topography on the slower-flowing side of the margin, along with lower bed reflectivity. However, the change in bed reflectivity across the margin is partially explained by a change in bed roughness. From these observations, we infer that the position of the eastern shear margin is not strongly controlled by local bed topography or other bed properties. Given the potential for future increases in ice flux farther downstream, the eastern shear margin may be vulnerable to migration. However, there is no evidence that this margin is migrating presently, despite ongoing changes farther downstream.
The electrical properties of water ice impact the study of diverse frozen environments, in particular the radar sounding of ice masses. The high-frequency response of meteoric polar ice depends partly on the bulk concentration of ammonium (NH4+), but the nature of this response has been unclear. Here we use broadband dielectric spectroscopy to investigate the electrical response of laboratory-frozen solutions. By analyzing the relaxation frequency of these samples and its temperature dependence, we show that the mobility of Bjerrum D-defects formed in the ice lattice by ammonium is 1.4 ±0.8 x 10–9m2 V–1 s–1 at -20°C, or about an order of magnitude smaller than that of Bjerrum L-defects formed by chloride. However, co-substitution of both ions increases the ice-lattice solubility of chloride by a factor of ∼7, causing an enhanced conductivity response due to greater concentrations of Bjerrum L-defects. Thus, despite its low mobility, ammonium can also affect the high-frequency electrical response of polar ice, but its covariance with chloride must be considered.
The major outlet glaciers that drain the eastern sector of the Amundsen Sea Embayment (Smith, Haynes, Thwaites and Pine Island) are among the largest, fastest-flowing and fastest-thinning glaciers in West Antarctica. Their recent ice-flow acceleration is linked to ocean-induced ice-shelf thinning, but may also arise from additional losses of ice-shelf buttressing that are not well understood. Here we present a comprehensive history of coastal change in the eastern Amundsen Sea Embayment between 1972 and 2011 derived mostly from Landsat imagery. The termini of all four major outlet glaciers have retreated, but retreat is most rapid along the ice-shelf margins, where progressive rifting has occurred. This pattern of retreat coincides with the recent acceleration of grounded ice and contributed to loss of ice-shelf buttressing. The observed pattern of margin-led gradual ice-shelf disintegration appears to be common in accelerating ocean-terminating outlet glaciers. We hypothesize that this pattern is part of a positive feedback between glacier acceleration and rift growth that could drive further buttressing loss in the eastern Amundsen Sea Embayment.
As ice streams flow into the Ross Ice Shelf, West Antarctica, their bed coupling transitions from weak to transient to zero as the ice goes afloat. Here we explore the nature of the bed across these crucial grounding zones using ice-penetrating radar. We collected several ground-based 2 MHz radar transects across the grounding zones of Whillans and Kamb Ice Streams and inferred bed-reflectivity changes from in situ measurements of depth-averaged dielectric attenuation, made possible by the observation of both primary and multiple bed echoes. We find no significant change in the bed reflectivity across either grounding zone. Combined with reflectivity modeling, this observation suggests that a persistent layer of subglacial water (>∼0.2 m) is widespread several kilometers upstream of the grounding zone. Our results are consistent with previous inferences of gradual grounding zones across this sector of the Ross Ice Shelf from airborne radar and satellite altimetry. Separately, the only clear bed-reflectivity change that we observed occurs ∼40 km downstream of the Kamb Ice Stream grounding zone, which we attribute to the onset of marine ice accretion onto the base of the ice shelf. This onset is much nearer to the grounding zone than previously predicted.
Accumulation rates and their spatio-temporal variability are important boundary conditions for ice-flow models. The depths of radar-detected internal layers can be used to infer the spatial variability of accumulation rates. Here we infer accumulation rates from three radar layers (26, 35 and 41 ka old) in the Vostok Subglacial Lake region using two methods: (1) the local-layer approximation (LLA) and (2) a combination of steady-state flowband modeling and formal inverse methods. The LLA assumes that the strain-rate history of a particle traveling through the ice sheet can be approximated by the vertical strain-rate profile at the current position of the particle, which we further assume is uniform. The flowband model, however, can account for upstream strain-rate gradients. We use the LLA to map accumulation rates over a 150 km × 350 km area, and we apply the flowband model along four flowbands. The LLA accumulation-rate map shows higher values in the northwestern corner of our study area and lower values near the downstream shoreline of the lake. These features are also present but less distinct in the flowband accumulation-rate profiles. The LLA-inferred accumulation-rate patterns over the three time periods are all similar, suggesting that the regional pattern did not change significantly between the start of the Holocene and the last ~20 ka of the last Glacial Period. However, the accumulation-rate profiles inferred from the flowband model suggest changes during that period of up to 1 cma–1 or ~50% of the inferred values.
Radar profiles of bed echo intensity can survey conditions at the ice–bed interface and test for the presence or absence of water. However, extracting information about basal conditions from bed echo intensities requires an estimate of the attenuation loss through the ice. We used the relationship between bed echo intensities from constant-offset radar data and ice thickness to estimate depth-averaged attenuation rates at several locations on and near Kamb Ice Stream (KIS), West Antarctica. We found values varying from 29 dBkm–1 at Siple Dome to 15 dBkm–1 in the main trunk region of KIS, in agreement with a previous measurement and models. Using these attenuation-rate values, we calculated the relative bed reflectivity throughout our KIS surveys and found that most of the bed in the trunk has high basal reflectivities, similar to those obtained in the location of boreholes that found water at the bed. Areas of lower bed reflectivity are limited to the sticky spot, where a borehole found a dry bed, and along the margins of KIS. These results support previous hypotheses that the basal conditions at locations like the sticky spot on KIS control its stagnation and possible reactivation.
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