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Scale independence of till rheology

  • Slawek Tulaczyk (a1)

Abstract

Representation of till rheology in glaciological models of ice motion over deformable sediments has, until now, focused largely on two end-member cases: (1) linear, or mildly non-linear, viscous rheology and (2) (nearly) plastic rheology. Most laboratory and in situ experiments support the latter model. Hindmarsh (1997) and Fowler (2002, 2003) proposed that experimental results represent the behavior of small till samples (characteristic length scales of ~0.1 to ~1 m) but that till behaves viscously over length scales that are relevant to determination of ice-flow rates in glaciers and ice sheets (~1 km or more). Observations of short speed-up events on the ice plain of Whillans Ice Stream, West Antarctica, provide an opportunity to compare the in situ rheology of this till, integrated over ~10–100 km, with the rheology of till from beneath the same ice stream determined on small laboratory samples and in local borehole experiments. This comparison indicates that the rheology of the subglacial till beneath Whillans Ice Stream is independent of scale.

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References

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