Seismic Excitation of the Ross Ice Shelf by Whillans Ice Stream Stick-Slip Events

Monday, 14 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Douglas Wiens1, Martin J Pratt1, Richard C Aster2, Andrew Nyblade3, Peter D Bromirski4, Ralph A Stephen5, Peter Gerstoft4, Anja Diez4, Chen Cai1, Robert E Anthony2 and Patrick Shore1, (1)Washington University in St Louis, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, St. Louis, MO, United States, (2)Colorado State University, Geosciences Department, Fort Collins, CO, United States, (3)Penn St Univ, University Park, PA, United States, (4)University of California San Diego, La Jolla, CA, United States, (5)Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Woods Hole, MA, United States
Rapid variations in the flow rate of upstream glaciers and ice streams may cause significant deformation of ice shelves. The Whillans Ice Stream (WIS) represents an extreme example of rapid variations in velocity, with motions near the grounding line consisting almost entirely of once or twice-daily stick–slip events with a displacement of up to 0.7 m (Winberry et al, 2014). Here we report observations of compressional waves from the WIS slip events propagating hundreds of kilometers across the Ross Ice Shelf (RIS) detected by broadband seismographs deployed on the ice shelf. The WIS slip events consist of rapid basal slip concentrated at three high friction regions (often termed sticky-spots or asperities) within a period of about 25 minutes (Pratt et al, 2014). Compressional displacement pulses from the second and third sticky spots are detected across the entire RIS up to about 600 km away from the source. The largest pulse results from the third sticky spot, located along the northwestern grounding line of the WIS. Propagation velocities across the ice shelf are significantly slower than the P wave velocity in ice, as the long period displacement pulse is also sensitive to velocities of the water and sediments beneath the ice shelf. Particle motions are, to the limit of resolution, entirely within the horizontal plane and roughly radial with respect to the WIS sticky-spots, but show significant complexity, presumably due to differences in ice velocity, thickness, and the thickness of water and sediment beneath. Study of this phenomenon should lead to greater understanding of how the ice shelf responds to sudden forcing around the periphery.