Subglacial lakes have long been considered hydraulically isolated water bodies underneath ice sheets. This view changed radically with the advent of repeat-pass satellite altimetry and the discovery of multiple lake discharges and water infill, associated with water transfer over distances of more than 200 km. The presence of subglacial lakes also influences ice dynamics, leading to glacier acceleration. Furthermore, subglacial melting under the Antarctic ice sheet is more widespread than previously thought, and subglacial melt rates may explain the availability for water storage in subglacial lakes and water transport. Modelling of subglacial water discharge in subglacial lakes essentially follows hydraulics of subglacial channels on a hard bed, where ice sheet surface slope is a major control on triggering subglacial lake discharge. Recent evidence also points to the development of channels in deformable sediment in West Antarctica, with significant water exchanges between till and ice. Most active lakes drain over short time scales and respond rapidly to upstream variations. Several Antarctic subglacial lakes exhibit complex interactions with the ice sheet due to water circulation. Subglacial lakes can therefore—from a modelling point of view—be seen as confined small oceans underneath an imbedded ice shelf.
One contribution of 17 to a Theo Murphy meeting issue ‘Antarctic subglacial lake exploration: first results and future plans’.
- Accepted June 16, 2015.
- © 2015 The Author(s)