The Scotia Arc GPS Project: Focus on the Antarctic Peninsula and South Shetland Islands
This award, provided by the Antarctic Geology and Geophysics Program of the Office of Polar Programs, provides funds and field support to continue a study of plate motions in the Antarctic Peninsula and Scotia Sea region. The principal aim of the original "Scotia Arc GPS Project (SCARP)" was to determine motions of the Scotia Plate relative to adjacent plates and to measure crustal deformation along its margins with special attention to the South Sandwich microplate and Bransfield Strait extension. The focus of the present proposal is confined to the part of the SCARP project that includes GPS sites at Elephant Island, the South Shetland Islands and on the Antarctic Peninsula. The British Antarctic Survey provides data from two sites on the Scotia arc for this project. The northern margin of the Scotia Plate is not included herein because that region is not covered under Polar Programs. A separate proposal will request support for re-measuring SCARP GPS stations in South America. With regard to the Antarctic Peninsula area, continuously operating GPS stations were established at Frei Base, King George Island (in 1996) and at the Argentine Base, South Orkney Islands (in 1998). A number of monumented sites were established in the Antarctic Peninsula region in 1997 to support campaign-style GPS work in December 1997 and December 1998. Because of the expected slow crustal motion in the Bransfield Strait and expiration of the initial grant, no further data collection will be done until enough time has passed so that new measurements can be expected to yield precise results.
The primary aim of this work is to complete the measurements required to quantify crustal deformation related to opening of the Bransfield Strait, the South Shetland microplate, and to identify any other independent tectonic blocks that the GPS data may reveal. The measurements to be completed under this award will be done using ship support during the 2002-2003 season. This would be five years after the first measurements and would provide quite precise horizontal velocities. This project will complete the acquisition, processing, and interpretation of a single data set to continue this initial phase of the NSF-funded project to measure crustal motions along the southern margin of the Scotia plate. A principal investigator and one graduate student from the University of Texas will perform fieldwork. A graduate student from the University of Hawaii will process the new data consistent with previous data, and all of the SCARP investigators (Bevis, Dalziel, Smalley, Taylor: from U. Texas, U. Hawaii, and U. Memphis) will participate in interpreting the data. The British Antarctic Survey (BAS) and Alfred Wegener Institute (AWI) also recognized the importance of the Scotia plate and the Bransfield system in both global and local plate tectonic frameworks. They, too, have used GPS to measure crustal motions in this region and duplicate a number of our sites. They began earlier than we, have taken data more recently, presumably will continue taking data, and they have published some results. The collaboration between SCARP, BAS, and AWI begun earlier, will continue into this new work. Joint and separate publications are anticipated. The existing SCARP network has several advantages that justify collection and analysis of another set of data. One is that SCARP has established and measured GPS sites on Smith, Low, and Livingston Islands, where other groups have not. These sites significantly extend the dimensions of the South Shetland microplate so that we can determine a more precise pole of rotation and recognize any sub-blocks within the South Shetland arc. Smith and Low Islands are near the end of the Bransfield Basin where relative motion between the South Shetland Microplate must somehow terminate, perhaps by faulting along an extension of the Hero fracture zone. Another advantage is that measurements under SCARP were made using fixed-height masts that eliminate all but a fraction of a millimeter of vertical error in exactly re-occupying each site. Vertical motion associated with postglacial rebound should be on the order of several mm/yr, which will eventually be measurable. Mid-Holocene shorelines that emerged to more than 20m on some South Shetland arc islands suggest that vertical motion is significant. Thus, this work will contribute to understanding both plate motions and post-glacial rebound from ice mass loss in the region.
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