Misidentified subglacial lake beneath the Devon Ice Cap, Canadian Arctic: A new interpretation from seismic and electromagnetic data

Killingbeck, Siobhan F.; Rutishauser, Anja; Unsworth, Martyn J.; Dubnick, Ashley; Criscitiello, Alison S.; Killingbeck, James; Dow, Christine F.; Hill, Tim; Booth, Adam D.; Main, Brittany; Brossier, Eric

In 2018 the first subglacial lake in the Canadian Artic was proposed to exist beneath Devon Ice cap, based on the analysis of airborne radar data. Here, we report a new interpretation of the subglacial material beneath Devon Ice Cap, supported by data acquired from multiple surface-based geophysical methods in 2022. The geophysical data recorded included 9 km of active source seismic reflection profiles, 7 transient electromagnetic soundings and 17 magnetotellurics stations. These surface-based geophysical datasets were collected above the inferred locations of the subglacial lakes and show no evidence for the presence of subglacial water. The acoustic impedance of the subglacial material, estimated from the seismic data, is 9.49 ± 1.92 x 10 6 kg m -2 s -1, comparable to consolidated or frozen sediment. The resistivity models obtained by inversion of both the transient electromagnetic and magnetotelluric measurements show the presence of highly resistive rock layers (1000 – 100000 Ω.m) directly beneath the ice. Re-evaluation of the airborne reflectivity data show that the radar attenuation rates were likely overestimated, leading to an overestimation of the basal reflectivity in the original radar studies. Here, we derive new radar attenuation rates using the temperature- and chemistry-dependent Arrhenius equation, and when applied to correct the returned bed power, the bed power does not meet the basal reflectivity threshold expected over subglacial water. Thus, the radar interpretation is now consistent with the seismic and electromagnetic observations of dry or frozen, non-conductive basal material.

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Killingbeck, Siobhan F. / Rutishauser, Anja / Unsworth, Martyn J. / et al: Misidentified subglacial lake beneath the Devon Ice Cap, Canadian Arctic: A new interpretation from seismic and electromagnetic data. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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