Deformation in Rutford Ice Stream, West Antarctica: measuring shear-wave anisotropy from icequakes

S. R. Harland*, J-M Kendall, G. W. Stuart, G. E. Lloyd, A F Baird, A. M. Smith, H. D. Pritchard, A. M. Brisbourne

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)
448 Downloads (Pure)


Ice streams provide major drainage pathways for the Antarctic ice sheet. The stress distribution and style of flow in such ice streams produce elastic and rheological anisotropy, which informs ice-flow modelling as to how ice masses respond to external changes such as global warming. Here we analyse elastic anisotropy in Rutford Ice Stream, West Antarctica, using observations of shear-wave splitting from three-component icequake seismograms to characterize ice deformation via crystal-preferred orientation. Over 110 high-quality measurements are made on 41 events recorded at five stations deployed temporarily near the ice-stream grounding line. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first well-documented observation of shear-wave splitting from Antarctic icequakes. The magnitude of the splitting ranges from 2 to 80 ms and suggests a maximum of 6% shear-wave splitting. The fast shear-wave polarization direction is roughly perpendicular to ice-flow direction. We consider three mechanisms for ice anisotropy: a cluster model (vertical transversely isotropic (VTI) model); a girdle model (horizontal transversely isotropic (HTI) model); and crack-induced anisotropy (HTI model). Based on the data, we can rule out a VTI mechanism as the sole cause of anisotropy an HTI component is needed, which may be due to ice crystal a-axis alignment in the direction of flow or the alignment of cracks or ice films in the plane perpendicular to the flow direction. The results suggest a combination of mechanisms may be at play, which represent vertical variations in the symmetry of ice crystal anisotropy in an ice stream, as predicted by ice fabric models.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)105-114
Number of pages10
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number64
Publication statusPublished - 25 May 2013




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