DOI: 10.1029/2023jf007304 ISSN: 2169-9003

Active Seismic Refraction, Reflection, and Surface‐Wave Surveys in Thick Debris‐Covered Glacial Environments

Tyler Kuehn, John W. Holt, Roy Johnson, Tyler Meng
  • Earth-Surface Processes
  • Geophysics


Debris‐covered glaciers (DCG) and rock glaciers have been increasingly studied in recent years because of the role they play within local watersheds, glacial ablation models due to climate change, and as analogs for buried ice features on planetary bodies such as Mars. Characterizing the supraglacial debris layer is a large part of these efforts. Geophysical exploration of DCG has mostly excluded active seismic methods, with the exception of refraction studies, due to the attenuating properties of the debris cover and field survey efficiency. We evaluate the accuracy, field efficiency, and effectiveness of seismic refraction, reflection, and surface‐wave surveys for determining the elastic properties of the debris layer and any underlying layers on DCG using the Sourdough Rock Glacier in Southcentral Alaska as a test site. We provide evidence for imaging an ultra‐shallow seismic reflection from the bottom of the loose debris layer using ultra‐dense receiver arrays and compare it to ground‐penetrating radar (GPR) images taken along the same profiles. We also detail how reliable dispersion curve images can be extracted from the surface wave package of the seismic data using the multi‐channel analysis of surface waves technique, which allows for the (s)‐wave profile to be inverted for. We find this could be a valuable addition to the toolbox of future geophysical investigations on DCG.

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