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The role of the margins in ice stream dynamicsAt first glance, it would appear that the bed of the active ice stream plays a much more important role in the overall force balance than do the margins, especially because the ratio of the half-width to depth for a typical ice stream is large (15:1 to 50:1). On the other hand, recent observations indicate that at least part of the ice stream is underlain by a layer of very weak till (shear strength about 2 kPa), and this weak basal layer would then imply that some or all of the resistive drag is transferred to the margins. In order to address this question, a detailed velocity profile near Upstream B Camp, which extends from the center of the ice stream, across the chaotic shear margin, and onto the Unicorn, which is part of the slow-moving ice sheet was measured. Comparison of this observed velocity profile with finite-element models of flow shows several interesting features. First, the shear stress at the margin is on the order of 130 kPa, while the mean value along the bed is about 15 kPa. Integration of these stresses along the boundaries indicates that the margins provide 40 to 50 percent, and the bed, 60 to 40 percent of the total resistive drag needed to balance the gravitational driving stress in this region. (The range of values represents calculations for different values of surface slope.) Second, the mean basal stress predicted by the models shows that the entire bed cannot be blanketed by the weak till observed beneath upstream B - instead there must be a distribution of weak till and 'sticky spots' (e.g., 85 percent till and 15 percent sticky spots of resistive stress equal to 100 kPa). If more of the bed were composed of weak till, then the modeled velocity would not match that observed. Third, the ice must exhibit an increasing enhancement factor as the margins are approached (E equals 10 in the chaotic zone), in keeping with laboratory measurements on ice under prolonged shear strain. Also, there is either a narrow zone of somewhat stiffer ice (E equals 5) outward of the shear margin, or the bed is frozen there. And last, the high shear stress and strain rate found at the margin are likely to cause significant viscous heating (q) in the marginal ice. The increase in temperature is proportional to qX/u, where X is the width of the shear zone and u is the transverse velocity component bringing cold ice in from the ice sheet outside the shear zone. Near upstream B, this heating is likely to cause an increase in temperature of 4 to 10 K. Plans are to measure this temperature increase in a series of bore holes near the margin during the 1992-93 field season, as well as to provide a more detailed description of the velocity field there.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Echelmeyer, Keith
(Alaska Univ. Fairbanks, AK, United States)
Harrison, William
(Alaska Univ. Fairbanks, AK, United States)
Date Acquired
September 6, 2013
Publication Date
July 1, 1993
Publication Information
Publication: NASA. Goddard Space Flight Center, The First Annual West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Science Workshop
Subject Category
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle19930022689Analytic PrimaryThe First Annual West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Science Workshop
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