Measurement of vertical strain and velocity at Siple Dome, Antarctica, with optical sensors

Zumberge, MA, Elsberg DH, Harrison WD, Husmann E, Morack JL, Pettit EC, Waddington ED.  2002.  Measurement of vertical strain and velocity at Siple Dome, Antarctica, with optical sensors. Journal of Glaciology. 48:217-225.


depth, fiber, ice, layers, radar, West Antarctica


As part of a larger program to measure and model vertical strain around Siple Dome on the West Antarctic ice sheet, we developed a new sensor to accurately and stably record displacements. The sensors consist of optical fibers, encased in thin-wall stainless-steel tubes, frozen into holes drilled with hot water, and stretched from the surface to various depths (up to 985 m) in the ice sheet. An optical system, connected annually to the fibers, reads out their absolute lengths with a precision of about 2 mm. Two sets of five sensors were installed in the 1997/98 field season: one set is near the Siple Dome core hole (an ice divide), and a second set is on the flank 7 km to the north (the ice thickness at both sites is approximately 1000 m). The optical-fiber length observations taken in four field seasons spanning a 3 year interval reveal vertical strain rates ranging from -229 +/- 4 ppm a(-1) to -7 +/- 9 ppm a(-1). In addition to confirming a non-linear constitutive relationship for deep ice, our analysis of the strain rates indicates the ice sheet is thinning at the flank and is in steady state at the divide.