A powerful seismic technique that exploits the phase of the ice-bottom reflections shows that soft till is widespread beneath a West Antarctic ice stream very close to the onset of streaming flow. The amplitude vs offset (AVO) method measures the change in amplitude of the reflection as a function of increasing angle of incidence. For a decrease in acoustic impedance with depth, the reflection phase is negative at low angles of impedance but positive at intermediate angles. The change in phase by 180° is an obvious and robust measure of the relative acoustic impedance contrasts. This technique is only usable when there is a change in phase vs offset, conditions which obtain for "UpB-type" tills (high water pressures and porosity, low compressional- and shear-wave velocities, similar to those observed at Upstream B camp). I have applied this technique to the far upstream regions of Ice Stream C and find that a dilatant (and presumably deforming), relatively thick (meters) till layer has formed beneath the ice stream within tens of km of the region identified as the transition from inland flow to ice-stream flow. These results suggest that the onset of rapid basal motion is linked to the formation of this deforming subglacial layer.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Earth-Surface Processes