Airborne radar sounding evidence for deformable sediments and outcropping bedrock beneath Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica
Schroeder, Dustin M.; Blankenship, Donald D.; Young, Duncan A.; Witus, Alexandra E.; Anderson, John B.
The geologic and morphologic records of prior ice sheet configurations show evidence of rapid, back-stepping, meltwater intensive retreats. However, the potential for such a retreat in a contemporary glacier depends on the lithology of the current ice sheet bed, which lies beneath kilometers of ice, making its physical properties difficult to constrain. We use radar sounding and marine bathymetry data to compare the bed configuration of Thwaites Glacier to the bed of paleo-Pine Island Glacier. Using observed and modeled radar scattering, we show that the tributaries and upper trunk of Thwaites Glacier are underlain by ice flow-aligned bedforms consistent with deformable sediment and that the lower trunk is grounded on a region of high bed roughness consistent with outcropping bedrock. This is the same configuration as paleo-Pine Island Glacier during its retreat across the inner continental shelf.