A viscoelastic flowline model applied to tidal forcing of Bindschadler Ice Stream, West Antarctica

R. T. Walker, K. Christianson, B. R. Parizek, S. Anandakrishnan, and R. B. Alley

Earth and Planetary Science Letters (15 February 2012)

DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2011.12.019

The motion of Bindschadler Ice Stream, West Antarctica, is dominated by sliding over a nearly plastic bed, according to analysis of kinematic GPS data using a new viscoelastic flowline model. Inversions of time-averaged velocity data with viscous ice-flow models can be consistent with multiple sliding laws, but propagation of velocity perturbations in a viscoelastic model can distinguish between sliding laws with different exponents. We develop such a model and apply it to a time series of velocity for the tidally modulated flow of Bindschadler Ice Stream (formerly Ice Stream D). Observed velocity perturbations are found to be consistent with a flow-law exponent m ≥ 8, which indicates basal motion with a relatively weak till bed; lower exponents consistent with motion dominated by deformation within the ice over a hard or frozen bed are found to be unlikely. This result suggests that Bindschadler Ice Stream would respond rapidly and significantly to any future loss of buttressing from the Ross Ice Shelf.

keywords: ice stream; ocean tides; viscoelastic; glacier dynamics

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