Shallow Ice-Sheet Composite Structure Revealed by Seismic Imaging Near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide Camp

Zhendong Zhang, Nori Nakata, Marianne Karplus, Galen Kaip, Jia Yi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Small-scale polar ice-sheet composite structures can influence coarse-grained climate models. For example, surface melting can hydro-fracture the ice and may eventually lubricate the base. The drainage process will change the petrophysical properties of the subsurface and is predictable from high-resolution seismic imaging. Ray-based imaging methods, though limited by the approximations made, have mapped seismic velocities in 1D, but have yet to offer definitive information about the lateral heterogeneity. Here we use the wave-equation-based seismic imaging method to estimate shear-wave velocities and to image an englacial reflector in 2D. We use 7-day ambient-noise data recorded by a linear array near the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide drilling site to perform the study. We obtain 2D vertical and horizontal shear-wave velocity models and observe a lateral variation of the radial anisotropy along the acquisition line. The inverted velocity model is further used to estimate the thicknesses of firn-air and firn layers. We also observe evident SH reflections and calculate the reflector image using robust zero-offset imaging and a more precise reverse time migration imaging method. The imaged reflector is at about 1,700 m depth and is dipping to the southwest. We anticipate that a porosity change at that depth may cause this englacial seismic discontinuity near WAIS Divide. Our results demonstrate the feasibility of estimating the petrophysical properties of polar ice using seismic methods. We anticipate our work to be further used for understanding ice dynamics and thermodynamics, such as the stability of ice shelves, the retreat of the Antarctic ice sheet, and restoring the paleo-sedimentary environment.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 26 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-03-03
Acknowledgements: The authors thank Tariq Alkhalifah for helpful discussions. The authors thank the HPC team at KAUST for providing guidance on using IBEX and Shaheen clusters. The computing for this project was partly performed at the OU Supercomputing Center for Education and Research (OSCER) at the University of Oklahoma (OU). This work is from the Thwaites Interdisciplinary Margin Evolution (TIME) project, a component of the International Thwaites Glacier Collaboration (ITGC). Support from National Science Foundation (NSF: OPP-1739027) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC: Grant NE/S006788/1). Logistics provided by NSF-U.S. Antarctic Program and NERC-British Antarctic Survey.
This publication acknowledges KAUST support, but has no KAUST affiliated authors.


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