Interpretation of topography and bed properties beneath Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica using seismic reflection methods

Elisabeth R. Clyne, Sridhar Anandakrishnan, Atsuhiro Muto, Richard B. Alley, Donald E. Voigt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Thwaites Glacier (TG), West Antarctica, is losing mass in response to oceanic forcing. Future evolution could lead to deglaciation of the marine basins of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, depending on ongoing and future climate forcings, but also on basal topography/bathymetry, basal properties, and physical processes operating within the grounding zone. Hence, it is important to know the distribution of bed types of TG's interior and grounding zone, and to incorporate them accurately in models in order to improve estimates of retreat rates and stability. Here we estimate properties of the bed by determining its acoustic impedance from amplitude analysis of reflection seismic data. We report on the results from two lines – a longitudinal (L-Line) and a transverse (N-Line) – on a central flowline of TG ∼100 km inland from the grounding zone. The data show considerable spatial variability in bed forms and properties, similar to results from a comparable survey farther inland. Notably, we find the same pattern here of hard (presumed bedrock) material on the stoss side of bumps and soft (presumed till) on the lee side. Physical understanding indicates the basal flow law describing motion over different regions of TG's bed likely varies from nearly-viscous over the bedrock regions to nearly-plastic over till regions, providing guidance for modeling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116543
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
StatePublished - Nov 15 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Geophysics
  • Space and Planetary Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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