Articles | Volume 6, issue 4
Research article
16 Aug 2012
Research article |  | 16 Aug 2012

Thin-layer effects in glaciological seismic amplitude-versus-angle (AVA) analysis: implications for characterising a subglacial till unit, Russell Glacier, West Greenland

A. D. Booth, R. A. Clark, B. Kulessa, T. Murray, J. Carter, S. Doyle, and A. Hubbard

Abstract. Seismic amplitude-versus-angle (AVA) methods are a powerful means of quantifying the physical properties of subglacial material, but serious interpretative errors can arise when AVA is measured over a thinly-layered substrate. A substrate layer with a thickness less than 1/4 of the seismic wavelength, λ, is considered "thin", and reflections from its bounding interfaces superpose and appear in seismic data as a single reflection event. AVA interpretation of subglacial till can be vulnerable to such thin-layer effects, since a lodged (non-deforming) till can be overlain by a thin (metre-scale) cap of dilatant (deforming) till. We assess the potential for misinterpretation by simulating seismic data for a stratified subglacial till unit, with an upper dilatant layer between 0.1–5.0 m thick (λ / 120 to > λ / 4, with λ = 12 m). For dilatant layers less than λ / 6 thick, conventional AVA analysis yields acoustic impedance and Poisson's ratio that indicate contradictory water saturation. A thin-layer interpretation strategy is proposed, that accurately characterises the model properties of the till unit. The method is applied to example seismic AVA data from Russell Glacier, West Greenland, in which characteristics of thin-layer responses are evident. A subglacial till deposit is interpreted, having lodged till (acoustic impedance = 4.26±0.59 × 106 kg m−2 s−1) underlying a water-saturated dilatant till layer (thickness < 2 m, Poisson's ratio ~ 0.5). Since thin-layer considerations offer a greater degree of complexity in an AVA interpretation, and potentially avoid misinterpretations, they are a valuable aspect of quantitative seismic analysis, particularly for characterising till units.