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Ice stream motion facilitated by a shallow-deforming and accreting bed

Spagnolo, M.; Phillips, E.; Piotrowski, J.A.; Rea, B.R.; Clark, C.D.; Stokes, C.R.; Carr, S.J.; Ely, J.C.; Ribolini, A.; Wysota, W.; Szuman, I.

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M. Spagnolo

E. Phillips

J.A. Piotrowski

B.R. Rea

C.D. Clark

S.J. Carr

J.C. Ely

A. Ribolini

W. Wysota

I. Szuman


Ice streams drain large portions of ice sheets and play a fundamental role in governing their response to atmospheric and oceanic forcing, with implications for sea-level change. The mechanisms that generate ice stream flow remain elusive. Basal sliding and/or bed deformation have been hypothesized, but ice stream beds are largely inaccessible. Here we present a comprehensive, multi-scale study of the internal structure of mega-scale glacial lineations (MSGLs) formed at the bed of a palaeo ice stream. Analyses were undertaken at macro- and microscales, using multiple techniques including X-ray tomography, thin sections and ground penetrating radar (GPR) acquisitions. Results reveal homogeneity in stratigraphy, kinematics, granulometry and petrography. The consistency of the physical and geological properties demonstrates a continuously accreting, shallow-deforming, bed and invariant basal conditions. This implies that ice stream basal motion on soft sediment beds during MSGL formation is accommodated by plastic deformation, facilitated by continuous sediment supply and an inefficient drainage system.


Spagnolo, M., Phillips, E., Piotrowski, J., Rea, B., Clark, C., Stokes, C., …Szuman, I. (2016). Ice stream motion facilitated by a shallow-deforming and accreting bed. Nature Communications, 7, Article 10723.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 14, 2016
Online Publication Date Feb 22, 2016
Publication Date Feb 22, 2016
Deposit Date Apr 5, 2016
Publicly Available Date Apr 5, 2016
Journal Nature Communications
Publisher Nature Research
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 7
Article Number 10723


Published Journal Article (4.1 Mb)

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