Pitfalls in radar diagnosis of ice-sheet bed conditions: Lessons from englacial attenuation models

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Abstract

[1] Radar power returned from ice-sheet beds has been widely accepted as an indicator of bed conditions. However, the bed returned power also depends on englacial attenuation, which is primarily a function of ice temperature. Here, using a one-dimensional attenuation model, it is demonstrated that, in most cases, variations in bed returned power are dominated by variations in englacial attenuation, rather than bed reflectivity. Both accumulation rate and geothermal flux anomalies can interfere with the interpretation. With the consequence, analytical radar algorithms that have been widely accepted likely yield false delineations of wet/dry beds. More careful consideration is needed when diagnosing bed conditions. Spatial patterns of shallow englacial radar reflectors can be used as a proxy for accumulation rates, which affect ice temperature and thus returned power. I argue that it is necessary to simultaneously interpret the returned power and englacial-reflector patterns to improve the bed diagnosis.

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