Basal conditions of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) are a key research topic in climate change studies. The recent construction of a seismic network has provided a new opportunity for direct, real-time, and continuous monitoring of the GrIS. Here we use ambient noise surface wave data from seismic stations all over Greenland for a 4.5-year period to detect changes in Rayleigh-wave phase velocity between seismic station pairs. We observe clear seasonal and long-term velocity changes for many pairs, and propose a plausible mechanism for these changes. Dominant factors driving the velocity changes might be seasonal and long-term pressurization/depressurization of the GrIS and shallow bedrock by air and ice mass loading/unloading. However, heterogeneity of the GrIS basal conditions might impose strong regionalities on the results. An interesting feature is that, even at adjacent two station pairs in the inland GrIS, one pair shows velocity decrease while another shows velocity increase as a response to the high air and snow pressure. The former pair might be located on a thawed bed that decreases velocity by increased meltwater due to pressure melting, whereas the latter pair might be located on a frozen bed that increases velocity by compaction of ice and shallow bedrock. The results suggest that surface waves are very sensitive to the GrIS basal conditions, and further observations will contribute to a more direct and quantitative estimation of water balance in the Arctic region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-98
Number of pages18
JournalPhysics of the Earth and Planetary Interiors
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr


  • Changes in Rayleigh-wave phase velocity
  • Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS)
  • Ice sheet basal conditions
  • Pressure melting
  • Seismic interferometry


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