Rift Mechanisms and Thermal Regime of the Lithosphere across Beardmore Glacier Region, Central Transantarctic Mountains, from Magnetotelluric Measurements
This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5). The investigators will examine competing hypotheses for the mechanism of extension and creation of the Transantarctic Mountains, and evolution of the thermal regimes of rifted West Antarctica and stable East Antarctica using magnetotelluric (MT) profiles. Surrounded almost entirely by ocean ridges, Antarctica is a special tectonic situation because of the need to make accommodation space for rifting in the Transantarctic region. In the MT method, temporal variations in the Earth's natural electromagnetic field are used as source fields to probe the electrical resistivity structure in the depth range of 1 to 200 km, or more. Geophysical methods, such as MT, are appropriate in Antarctica because of the predominance of thick ice cover over most of the Continent and the difficult operating environment. The proposed effort will consist of approximately 50 sites over a distance approaching 500 km with a 10 km average spacing, oriented normal to the Transantarctic Mountains (TAM), in the Beardmore glacier area. High quality MT soundings will be collected over thick ice sheets using a custom electrode preamp design, updated from previous Antarctic projects. Data acquisition will take place over two field seasons. The primary goals are three-fold: to establish the location of the deeper tectonic transition between East and West Antarctica that may be offset from the physiographic transition at the surface, using deep resistivity structure distinguish between modes of extensional upwelling and magmatism that may be vertically non-uniform, depth and magnitude of quasi-layered deep crustal low resistivity, particularly below West Antarctica, will be used to estimate crustal heat flux into the ice sheet base.
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