Organized flow from the South Pole to the Filchner-Ronne ice shelf: An assessment of balance velocities in interior East Antarctica using radio echo sounding data

Robert G. Bingham, Martin J. Siegert, Duncan A. Young, Donald D. Blankenship

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Citations (Scopus)


Ice flow through central Antarctica has the potential to transmit accumulation changes from deep-interior East Antarctica rapidly to the shelf, but it is poorly constrained owing to a dearth of ice-velocity observations. We use parameters derived from airborne radio echo sounding (RES) data to examine the onset, areal extent, and englacial conditions of an organized flow network (tributaries feeding an ice stream) draining from the South Pole to the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf. We classified RES flight tracks covering the region according to whether englacial stratigraphy was disrupted (i.e., internal layers diverged significantly from the surface and bed echoes) or undisrupted (i.e., internal layers closely parallel surface and basal topography), and we calculated subglacial roughness along basal reflectors. Where satellite-measured surface ice-flow speeds are available (covering 39% of the study region), regions of fast and tributary flow correspond with RES flight tracks that exhibit more disrupted internal layers and smoother subglacial topography than their counterparts in regions of slow flow. This suggests that disrupted internal layering and smooth subglacial topography identified from RES profiles can be treated as indicators of past or present enhanced-flow tributaries where neither satellite nor ground-based ice-flow measurements are available. We therefore use these RES-derived parameters to assess the balance-flux-modeled steady state flow regime between the South Pole and Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf. The RES analysis confirms that an organized flow network drains a wide region around the South Pole into the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf. However, the spatial extent of this network, as delineated by the RES data, diverges from that predicted by currently available balance-flux models.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberF03S26
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research
Issue numberF3
Early online date26 May 2007
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2007



  • Antarctic
  • radio sound echoing
  • radar
  • balance velocities
  • Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf
  • support force ice stream

Cite this