Collaborative Research: Seismic Traverse of the Byrd Subglacial Basin-Field Test
This award supports an in situ and short traverse seismic reflection/refraction and magnetotelluric experiment in West Antarctica. This collaborative experiment involves four awards at four institutions. The four-fold purpose is 1) to investigate part of the Byrd Subglacial Basin, 2) to test techniques for this work that could be done in a long traverse, 3) to determine the viability of the magnetotelluric method on a thick (electrically resistive) ice sheet, and 4) to evaluate the relative merits of refraction with wide reflection versus reflection with narrow refraction seismic studies in imaging the lithosphere. The geophysical techniques that will be employed are capable of imaging the ice sheet, the continental lithosphere, and the upper mantle, as well as determining physical properties of parts of the lithosphere and mantle. Investigations of outcrop geology over the last thirty years in West Antarctica and the Transantarctic Mountains have lead to recent interpretations that the crust is made up of many different lithospheric blocks. Seismic reflection work is the only way to image the crust in detail and the refraction work is the only way to determine physical properties of the layers and blocks defined by the reflection work. The magnetotelluric work is scientifically risky because it may not yield useful information when used over the electrically resistive ice sheet; however, if it works it has the potential to image molten rock in the crust and upper mantle. In a continental rift region such as West Antarctica, the presence of melt in the lithosphere is likely and, if documented, has very important ramifications to ice sheet dynamics. Research work supported by this award is expected to provide constraints to models of a range of crustal processes from models of ice sheet dynamics to tectonic and kinematic models of lithospheric thinning and rifting.
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