Project Information
Collaborative Research: A GPS Network to Determine Crustal Motions in the Bedrock of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet: Phase I - Installation
Start Date:
End Date:
This award, provided by the Antarctic Geology and Geophysics Program of the Office of Polar Programs, supports a collaborative research program to initiate a Global Positioning System (GPS) network to measure crustal motions in the bedrock surrounding and underlying the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). Evaluation of the role of both tectonic and ice-induced crustal motions of the WAIS bedrock is a critical goal for understanding past, present, and future dynamics of WAIS and its potential role in future global change scenarios, as well as improving our understanding of the role of Antarctica in global plate motions. The extent of active tectonism in West Antarctica is largely speculative, as few data exist that constrain its geographic distribution, directions, or rates of deformation. Active tectonism and the influence of bedrock on the WAIS have been highlighted recently by geophysical data indicating active subglacial volcanism and control of ice streaming by the presence of sedimentary basins. The influence of bedrock crustal motion on the WAIS and its future dynamics is a fundamental issue. Existing GPS projects are located only on the fringe of the ice sheet and do not address the regional picture. It is important that baseline GPS measurements on the bedrock around and within the WAIS be started so that a basis is established for detecting change.

To measure crustal motions, this project will build a West Antarctica GPS Network (WAGN) of at least 15 GPS sites across the interior of West Antarctica (approximately the size of the contiguous United States from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific coast) over a two-year period beginning in the Antarctic field season 2001-2002. The planned network is designed using the Multi-modal Occupation Strategy (MOST), in which a small number of independent GPS "roving" receivers make differential measurements against a network of continuous GPS stations for comparatively short periods at each site. This experimental strategy, successfully implemented by a number of projects in California, S America, the SW Pacific and Central Asia, minimizes logistical requirements, an essential element of application of GPS geodesy in the scattered and remote outcrops of the WAIS bedrock.

The WAGN program will be integrated with the GPS network that has been established linking the Antarctic Peninsula with South America through the Scotia arc (Scotia Arc GPS Project (SCARP)). It will also interface with stations currently measuring motion across the Ross Embayment, and with the continent-wide GIANT program of the Working Group on Geodesy and Geographic Information Systems of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research (SCAR). The GPS network will be based on permanent monuments set in solid rock outcrops that will have near-zero set-up error for roving GPS occupations, and that can be directly converted to a continuous GPS site when future technology makes autonomous operation and satellite data linkage throughout West Antarctica both reliable and economical. The planned network both depends on and complements the existing and planned continuous networks. It is presently not practical, for reasons of cost and logistics, to accomplish the measurements proposed herein with either a network of continuous stations or traditional campaigns.

The proposed WAGN will complement existing GPS projects by filling a major gap in coverage among several discrete crustal blocks that make up West Antarctica, a critical area of potential bedrock movements. If crustal motions are relatively slow, meaningful results will only begin to emerge within the five-year maximum period of time for an individual funded project. Hence this proposal is only to initiate the network and test precision and velocities at the most critical sites. Once built, however, the network will yield increasingly meaningful results with the passage of time. Indeed, the slower the rates turn out to be, the more important an early start to measuring. It is anticipated that the results of this project will initiate an iterative process that will gradually resolve into an understanding of the contributions from plate rotations and viscoelastic and elastic motions resulting from deglaciation and ice mass changes. Velocities obtained from initial reoccupation of the most critical sites will dictate the timing of a follow-up proposal for reoccupation of the entire network when detectable motions have occurred.
Person Role
Dalziel, Ian W. Investigator
Antarctic Earth Sciences Award # 0003619
Deployment Type
LMG9810 ship expedition
Data Management Plan
None in the Database
Product Level:
Not provided
Repository Title (link) Format(s) Status
R2R Expedition Data None exist
R2R Expedition data of LMG9810 None exists
Platforms and Instruments

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