Decoding ice sheet behavior using englacial layer slopes

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20 Scopus citations


The complex flow fields of the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets deform layers deposited as snow at the ice sheet surface, leaving a record of the regional flow history and/or local transitions in basal boundary conditions within the geometry of ice sheet layers. Ice-penetrating radar reveals these layers, but radar data interpretations are limited by the challenges of quantitatively and reproducibly comparing observations with model output. We present a conceptual framework that relates along-track reflector slope to gradients in the steady state velocity field of ice sheets. This method makes effective use of englacial reflectors in regions where it is challenging to image continuous layers and avoids the error propagation inherent to tracer-transport methods, developing the potential for formal radar data assimilation in future modeling studies. We apply our method to radar data collected at the grounding line of Whillans Ice Stream, where enhanced bed friction produces characteristic reflector slopes reproducible using a higher-order ice flow model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5561-5570
Number of pages10
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Jun 16 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geophysics
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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