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Collaborative Research: Deciphering the Deep Ice and the Ice-water Interface over Lake Vostok Using Existing Radar Data

This award supports a project to evaluate radio-echo intensities in the available SOAR ice-penetrating radar data along grids covering Lake Vostok, and along four regional tracks from Ridge B toward the lake. The project has two objectives; first, it will examine the upper surface of the lake and reflectors hypothesized to be a boundary between the meteoric and accreted ice. They will provide crucial knowledge on the dynamic evolution of the lake. Second, this project will examine a poorly understood echo-free zone within the deep ice in central East Antarctica. This zone may consist of distorted stagnant ice, while its upper boundary may be a shear zone. The SOAR radar data provide a unique resource to examine spatiotemporal water circulation patterns that should be understood in order to select the best direct-sampling strategy to the lake. The Vostok ice core provides a unique opportunity to do this work. First, the path effects, i.e. propagation loss and birefringence, will be derived at the ice-core site using ice temperature, chemistry, and fabric data. Second, lateral variations of the propagation loss will be estimated by tracking chemistry associated with radar-detected isochronous layers, and by inferring temperatures from an ice-flow model that can replicate those layers. Ice-fabric patterns will be inferred from anisotropy in the reflectivity at about 100 radar-track cross-over sites. In terms of broader impacts, a graduate student will be trained to interpret the radar data in the light of radar theory and glaciological context of Lake Vostok and summer workshops for K-12 teachers will be provided in Seattle and New York. This project will contribute to ongoing efforts to study Lake Vostok and will complement the site selection for a North Vostok ice core, which has been proposed by Russia and France as an IPY program. Both a change in personnel as well as an achievement of the initial purpose of the project allowed us to move the direction toward dynamic drainage and water flow beneath glaciers and ice sheets with particular emphasis on the interior of Antarctica and overdeepenings.

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