Modeling englacial radar attenuation at Siple Dome, West Antarctica, using ice chemistry and temperature data

  • MacGregor J
  • Winebrenner D
  • Conway H
 et al. 
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The radar reflectivity of an ice-sheet bed is a primary measurement for discriminating between thawed and frozen beds. Uncertainty in englacial radar attenuation and its spatial variation introduces corresponding uncertainty in estimates of basal reflectivity. Radar attenuation is proportional to ice conductivity, which depends on the concentrations of acid and sea-salt chloride and the temperature of the ice. We synthesize published conductivity measurements to specify an ice-conductivity model and find that some of the dielectric properties of ice at radar frequencies are not yet well constrained. Using depth profiles of ice-core chemistry and borehole temperature and an average of the experimental values for the dielectric properties, we calculate an attenuation rate profile for Siple Dome, West Antarctica. The depth-averaged modeled attenuation rate at Siple Dome (20.0 ± 5.7 dB km1) is somewhat lower than the value derived from radar profiles (25.3 ± 1.1 dB km1). Pending more experimental data on the dielectric properties of ice, we can match the modeled and radar-derived attenuation rates by an adjustment to the value for the pure ice conductivity that is within the range of reported values. Alternatively, using the pure ice dielectric properties derived from the most extensive single data set, the modeled depth-averaged attenuation rate is 24.0 ± 2.2 dB km1. This work shows how to calculate englacial radar attenuation using ice chemistry and temperature data and establishes a basis for mapping spatial variations in radar attenuation across an ice sheet.

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  • Joseph A. MacGregor

  • Dale P. Winebrenner

  • Howard Conway

  • Kenichi Matsuoka

  • Paul A. Mayewski

  • Gary D. Clow

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