skip to main content

Title: An Application of Ground-Penetrating Radar at a Greater Yellowstone Area Ice Patch
Ice patches are an irreplaceable archive of past events. With atypical melting now occurring around the world, it is important to be able to quantify and interpret the potential of what remains in areas of archaeological interest. A ground-penetrating radar (GPR) survey was conducted at an archaeologically productive ice patch in the Greater Yellowstone Area to identify sediment layers in which archaeological materials may be present. Numerous reflective surfaces were observed and interpreted as being organic-rich layers called lags. GPR did not reveal all lag surfaces that were easily identifiable in an ice core that was collected concurrently at the same ice patch. 400 MHz and 900 MHz antennas were used in the survey, but neither fully revealed the basal profile of the ice patch. This is likely the result of the short time-window in which the data were collected, as opposed to attenuation of the radar waves deep in the ice. Future applications of the technology are explored.
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of glacial archaeology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Beach ridges constructed by pluvial Lake Clover in Elko County, Nevada during the Late Pleistocene were investigated with ground-penetrating radar (GPR). The primary objective was to document the internal architecture of these shorelines and to evaluate whether they were constructed during lake rise or fall. GPR data were collected with a ground-coupled 400-Mhz antenna and SIR-3000 controller. To constrain the morphology of the ridges, detailed topographic surveys were collected with a Topcon GTS-235W total station referenced to a second class 0 vertical survey point. GPR transects crossed the beach ridge built by Lake Clover at its highstand of 1725 m, along with seven other ridges down to the lowest beach at 1712 m. An average dielectric permittivity of 5.0, typical for dry sand and gravel, was calculated from GPR surveys in the vicinity of hand-excavations that encountered prominent stratigraphic discontinuities at known depths. Assuming this value, consistent radar signals were returned to a depth of ~3 m. Beach ridges are resolvable as ~90 to 150-cm thick stratified packages of gravelly sand overlying a prominent lakeward-dipping reflector, interpreted as the pre-lake land surface. Many ridges contain a package of sediment resembling a buried berm at their core, typically offset in amore »landward direction from the geomorphic crest of the beach ridge. Sequences of lakeward-dipping reflectors are resolvable beneath the beach face of all ridges. No evidence was observed to indicate that beach ridges were submerged by higher water levels after their formation. Instead, the GPR data are consistent with a model of sequential ridge formation during a monotonic lake regression.« less
  2. Abstract Despite widespread use of radio-echo sounding (RES) in glaciology and broad distribution of processed radar products, the glaciological community has no standard software for processing impulse RES data. Dependable, fast and collection-system/platform-independent processing flows could facilitate comparison between datasets and allow full utilization of large impulse RES data archives and new data. Here, we present ImpDAR, an open-source, cross-platform, impulse radar processor and interpreter, written primarily in Python. The utility of this software lies in its collection of established tools into a single, open-source framework. ImpDAR aims to provide a versatile standard that is accessible to radar-processing novices and useful to specialists. It can read data from common commercial ground-penetrating radars (GPRs) and some custom-built RES systems. It performs all the standard processing steps, including bandpass and horizontal filtering, time correction for antenna spacing, geolocation and migration. After processing data, ImpDAR's interpreter includes several plotting functions, digitization of reflecting horizons, calculation of reflector strength and export of interpreted layers. We demonstrate these capabilities on two datasets: deep (~3000 m depth) data collected with a custom (3 MHz) system in northeast Greenland and shallow (<100 m depth, 500 MHz) data collected with a commercial GPR on South Cascade Glacier inmore »Washington.« less
  3. Subsurface imaging in arid regions is a well-known application of satellite Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). Archaeological prospection has often focused on L-band SAR sensors, given the ability of longer wavelengths to penetrate more deeply into sand. In contrast, this study demonstrates capabilities of shorter-wavelength, but higher spatial resolution, C-band and X-band SAR sensors in archaeological subsurface imaging at the site of ‘Uqdat al-Bakrah (Safah), Oman. Despite having varying parameters and acquisitions, both the X-band and C-band images analyzed were able to identify a subsurface paleo-channel that is not visible on the ground surface. This feature was first identified through Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey, then recognized in the SAR imagery and further verified by test excavations. Both the GPR and the excavations reveal the base of the paleo-channel at a depth of 0.6 m–0.7 m. Hence, both X-band and C-band wavelengths are appropriate for subsurface archaeological prospection in suitable (dry silt and sand) conditions with specific acquisition parameters. Moreover, these results offer important new insights into the paleo-environmental context of ancient metal-working at ‘Uqdat al-Bakrah and demonstrate surface water flow roughly contemporary with the site’s occupation.
  4. Abstract Mount Achernar moraine is a terrestrial sediment archive that preserves a record of ice-sheet dynamics and climate over multiple glacial cycles. Similar records exist in other blue ice moraines elsewhere on the continent, but an understanding of how these moraines form is limited. We propose a model to explain the formation of extensive, coherent blue ice moraine sequences based on the integration of ground-penetrating radar (GPR) data with ice velocity and surface exposure ages. GPR transects (100 and 25 MHz) both perpendicular and parallel to moraine ridges at Mount Achernar reveal an internal structure defined by alternating relatively clean ice and steeply dipping debris bands extending to depth, and where visible, to the underlying bedrock surface. Sediment is carried to the surface from depth along these debris bands, and sublimates out of the ice, accumulating over time (>300 ka). The internal pattern of dipping reflectors, combined with increasing surface exposure ages, suggest sequential exposure of the sediment where ice and debris accretes laterally to form the moraine. Subsurface structure varies across the moraine and can be linked to changes in basal entrainment conditions. We speculate that higher concentrations of debris may have been entrained in the ice during coldermore »glacial periods or entrained more proximal to the moraine sequence.« less
  5. Abstract Visible and infrared satellite images reveal numerous lineations on the Siple Coast region of West Antarctica. We used 5 MHz ice-penetrating radar to probe the interior and the bed of the ice sheet beneath a lineation at the boundary between Engelhardt Ice Ridge and flat-ice terrain to the south of the Kamb Ice Stream (KIS) outlet. Results show curved reflectors that emerge from the bed beneath 600 m thick ice. The tops of the reflectors extend about 100m into the ice above the bed, where they become almost horizontal. Apparent reflectivity of the horizontal section is about 20 dB less than that of the bed. We conclude that the likely cause of such strong reflection is sea water that was accreted into basal crevasses when the flat-ice terrain was floating. Internal layers are warped downward just downslope from the basal reflectors. It is thought that the downwarping was caused by localized basal melting in the past. The spatial pattern of downwarping suggests that localized basal melting was stronger on the north side than on the south side of KIS; apparently ice/ocean interactions on the two sides of KIS were different.