Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Characterisation of subglacial water using a constrained transdimensional Bayesian transient electromagnetic inversion

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Open Access permissions



Subglacial water modulates glacier-bed friction and therefore is of fundamental importance when characterising the dynamics of ice masses. The state of subglacial pore water, whether liquid or frozen, is associated with differences in electrical resistivity that span several orders of magnitude; hence, liquid water can be inferred from electrical resistivity depth profiles. Such profiles can be obtained from inversions of transient (time-domain) electromagnetic (TEM) soundings, but these are often non-unique. Here, we adapt an existing Bayesian transdimensional algorithm (Multimodal Layered Transdimensional Inversion – MuLTI) to the inversion of TEM data using independent depth constraints to provide statistical properties and uncertainty analysis of the resistivity profile with depth. The method was applied to ground-based TEM data acquired on the terminus of the Norwegian glacier, Midtdalsbreen, with depth constraints provided by co-located ground-penetrating radar data. Our inversion shows that the glacier bed is directly underlain by material of resistivity 102 Ωm ± 1000 %, with thickness 5–40 m, in turn underlain by a highly conductive basement (100 Ωm ± 15 %). High-resistivity material, 5×104 Ωm ± 25 %, exists at the front of the glacier. All uncertainties are defined by the interquartile range of the posterior resistivity distribution. Combining these resistivity profiles with those from co-located seismic shear-wave velocity inversions to further reduce ambiguity in the hydrogeological interpretation of the subsurface, we propose a new 3-D interpretation in which the Midtdalsbreen subglacial material is partitioned into partially frozen sediment, frozen sediment/permafrost and weathered/fractured bedrock with saline water.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)75-94
Number of pages20
JournalSolid Earth
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jan 2020

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Fringe of Gold: Oceans from the perspective of our coast

    Williams, B., Bates, C. R., Searle, O., Stojanovic, T. & South, A. M., 10 Nov 2020

    Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

  2. Sensing Archaeology in the North: the use of non-destructive geophysical and remote sensing methods in archaeology in Scandinavian and North Atlantic Territories

    Cuenca-garcía, C., Risbøl, O., Bates, C. R., Stamnes, A. A., Skoglund, F., Ødegård, Ø., Viberg, A., Koivisto, S., Fuglsang, M., Gabler, M., Schlosser Mauritsen, E., Perttola, W. & Solem, D., 22 Sep 2020, In: Remote Sensing. 12, 18, 25 p., 3102.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  3. The Norse waterways of West Mainland Orkney, Scotland

    Bates, C. R., Bates, M. R., Crawford, B., Sanmark, A. & Whittaker, J., 4 Aug 2020, In: Journal of Wetland Archaeology. Latest Articles, 18 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  4. Multi-proxy characterisation of the Storegga Tsunami and its impact on the early Holocene landscapes of the southern North Sea

    Gaffney, V., Fitch, S., Bates, M., Ware, R. L., Kinnaird, T., Gearey, B., Hill, T., Telford, R., Batt, C., Stern, B., Whittaker, J., Davies, S., Sharada, M. B., Everett, R., Cribdon, R., Kistler, L., Harris, S., Kearney, K., Walker, J., Muru, M. & 5 others, Hamilton, D., Law, M., Finlay, A., Bates, C. R. & Allaby, R. G., 15 Jul 2020, In: Geosciences. 10, 7, 19 p., 270.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

  5. A massive, Late Neolithic pit structure associated with Durrington Walls Henge

    Gaffney, V., Baldwin, E., Bates, M., Bates, C. R., Gaffney, C., Hamilton, D., Kinnaird, T., Neubauer, W., Yorston, R., Allaby, R., Chapman, H., Garwood, P., Löcker, K., Hinterleitner, A., Sparrow, T., Trinks, I., Wallner, M. & Leivers, M., 21 Jun 2020, In: Internet Archaeology. 55, 4.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Related by journal

  1. Bimodal or quadrimodal? Statistical tests for the shape of fault patterns

    Healy, D. & Jupp, P., 22 Aug 2018, In: Solid Earth. 9, 4, p. 1051-1060 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

ID: 265961256