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Understanding Landscape and Ice Sheet Evolution in the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains, East Antarctica, using Ice Sheet Surface Mapping

LEA, EDMUND,JAMES (2023) Understanding Landscape and Ice Sheet Evolution in the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains, East Antarctica, using Ice Sheet Surface Mapping. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Landscapes buried beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet preserve information about the geologic and geomorphic evolution of the continent both before and during the wide-scale glaciation that began roughly 34 million years ago. Throughout this time, some areas of the ice sheet have remained cold-based and non-erosive, preserving ancient landscapes remarkably intact. The Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains in central East Antarctica are one such landscape, maintaining evidence of tectonic, fluvial and glacial controls on their distinctly alpine morphology. The central Gamburtsevs have previously been surveyed using airborne ice-penetrating radar, however, many questions remain as to their evolution and their influence on the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, including where in the region to drill for a 1.5-million-year-long ‘Oldest Ice’ core. In this thesis, new maps of the planform geometry of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains are derived from satellite remote sensing datasets of the ice sheet surface, based on the relationship between bed roughness and ice surface morphology. Automated and manual approaches to mapping were tested and validated against existing radar data and elevation models. Manual mapping was more effective than automated approaches at reproducing bed features observed in radar data, but a hybrid approach is suggested for future work. The maps produced here show detail of mountain ridges and valleys on wavelengths significantly smaller than the spacing of existing radar flightlines, and mapping has extended well beyond the confines of existing radar surveys. Morphometric analysis of the mapped landscape reveals that it constitutes a preserved (> 34 Ma) dendritic valley network, with some evidence for modification by topographically-confined glaciation prior to ice sheet inception. The planform geometry of the landscape is a significant control on locations of basal melting, subglacial hydrological flows, and the stability of the ice sheet over time, so the maps presented here may help to guide decisions about where to search for Oldest Ice.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Science
Keywords:Antarctica;glacial;alpine;landscape;satellite;remote sensing;automation;ice sheet;ice cores
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Geography, Department of
Thesis Date:2023
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:20 Feb 2023 11:18

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