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Internal structure and composition of a rock glacier in the Andes (upper Choapa valley, Chile) using borehole information and ground-penetrating radar

  • Sébastien Monnier (a1) and Christophe Kinnard (a1)
Abstract

This study uses boreholes, ground temperature monitoring and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) in order to understand the internal structure and composition of a rock glacier in the upper Choapa valley, northern Chile. The rock glacier is a small valley-side feature, 200 m long and ranging between 3710 and 3780 ma.s.l. Two boreholes were drilled down to depths of 20 and 25 m, respectively, using the diamond drillhole technique. An ice-rock mixture was encountered in the boreholes, with heterogeneous ice content averaging 15-30%. Data from common-midpoint (CMP) and constant-offset (CO) GPR surveys acquired, respectively, near the boreholes and across the whole rock glacier were processed to highlight the internal stratigraphy and variations in the radar-wave velocity. The GPR profiles depict a rock glacier constituted of stacked and generally concordant layers, with a thickness ranging from 10 m in its upper part to ∼30m towards its terminus. The CMP analysis highlights radar-wave velocities of 0.13-0.16 m ns–1 in the first 20 m of the structure. Larger vertical and lateral velocity variations are highlighted from CO data, reflecting the heterogeneous composition of the rock glacier and the likely presence of unfrozen water in the structure. Given the average air temperature registered at the site (+0.5°C), the near-melting-point temperature registered in the boreholes over more than a year and the presence of locally high water content inferred from GPR data, it is thought that the permafrost in the rock glacier is currently degrading.

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References
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