Physical modeling of the influence of bedrock topography and ablation on ice flow and meteorite concentration in Antarctica

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Abstract

[1] Three-dimensional laboratory physical experiments have been used to investigate the influence of bedrock topography and ablation on ice flow. Different models were tested in a Plexiglas box, where a transparent silicone simulating ice in nature was allowed to flow. Experimental results show how the flow field (in terms of both flow lines and velocity) and variations in the topography of the free surface and internal layers of the ice are strongly influenced by the presence and height of bedrock obstacles. In particular, the buttressing effect forces the ice to slow down, rise up, and avoid the obstacle; the higher the bedrock barrier, the more pronounced the process. Only limited uplift of internal layers is observed in these experiments. In order to exhume deep material embedded in the ice, ablation (simulated by physically removing portions of silicone from the model surface to maintain a constant topographic depression) must be included in the physical models. In this case, the analogue ice replenishes the area of material removal, thereby allowing deep layers to move vertically to the surface and severely altering the local ice flow pattern. This process is analogous to the ice flow model proposed in the literature for the origin of meteorite concentrations in blue ice areas of the Antarctic plateau.

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