National Oceanic and
Atmospheric Administration
United States Department of Commerce


FY 2010

Tectonomagmatic activity and ice dynamics in the Bransfield Strait back-arc basin, Antarctica

Dziak, R.P., M. Park, W.S. Lee, H. Matsumoto, D.R. Bohnenstiehl, and J.H. Haxel

J. Geophys. Res., 115, B01102, doi: 10.1029/2009JB006295 (2010)

An array of moored hydrophones was used to monitor the spatiotemporal distribution of small- to moderate-sized earthquakes and ice-generated sounds within the Bransfield Strait, Antarctica. During a 2 year period, a total of 3900 earthquakes, 5925 icequakes and numerous ice tremor events were located throughout the region. The seismic activity included eight space-time earthquake clusters, positioned along the central neovolcanic rift zone of the young Bransfield back-arc basin. These sequences of small magnitude earthquakes, or swarms, suggest ongoing magmatic activity that becomes localized along isolated volcanic features and fissure-like ridges in the southwest portion of the basin. A total of 122 earthquakes were located along the South Shetland trench, indicating continued deformation and possibly ongoing subduction along this margin. The large number of icequakes observed show a temporal pattern related to seasonal freeze-thaw cycles and a spatial distribution consistent with channeling of sea ice along submarine canyons from glacier fronts. Several harmonic tremor episodes were sourced from a large (∼30 km2) iceberg that entered northeast portion of the basin. The spectral character of these signals suggests they were produced by either resonance of a small chamber of fluid within the iceberg, or more likely, due to periodicity of discrete stick-slip events caused by contact of the moving iceberg with the seafloor. These pressure waves appear to have been excited by abrasion of the iceberg along the seafloor as it passed Clarence and Elephant Islands.

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