Five overlapping Landsat multispectral scanner satellite images of the interior of the West Antarctic ice sheet were enhanced with principal component analysis, high-pass filtering, and linear contrast stretching and merged into a mosaic by aligning surface features in the overlap areas. The mosaic was registered to geodetic coordinates, to an accuracy of about 1 km, using the five scene centers as control points. The onset of streaming flow of two tributaries of ice stream C and one tributary of ice stream D is visible in the mosaic. The onset appears to occur within a relatively short distance, less than the width of the ice stream, typically at a subglacial topographic feature such as a step or ridge. The ice streams extend farther up into the interior than previously mapped. Ice stream D starts about 150 km from the ice divide, at an altitude of about 1500 m, approximately halfway up the convex-upward dome shape of the interior ice sheet. Ice stream D is relatively much longer than ice stream C, possibly because ice stream D is currently active whereas ice stream C is currently inactive. The grounded portion of the West Antarctic ice sheet is perhaps best conceptualized as an ice sheet in which ice streams are embedded over most of its area, with slow moving ice converging into fast moving ice streams in a widely distributed pattern, much like that of streams and rivers in a hydrologic basin. A relic margin appears to parallel most of the south margin of the tributary of ice stream D, separated from the active shear margin by about 10 km or less for a distance of over 200 km. This means there is now evidence for recent changes having occurred in three of the five major ice streams which drain most of West Antarctica (B, C, and D), two of which (B and D) are currently active.
Additional publication details
Satellite imagery of the onset of streaming flow of ice streams C and D, West Antarctica