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Ice composition evidence for the formation of basal ice from lake water beneath a cold-based Antarctic glacier

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Entrainment of debris by cold-based glaciers having basal temperatures as low as −17°C can be observed in the Dry Valleys of south Victoria Land, Antarctica. The classical models developed to explain debris incorporation at the glacier base are inappropriate in such cases, since the basal temperature is well below the freezing point. An alternative model, based on the presence of ice-marginal lakes, has recently been proposed by one of the authors (S.F.). In this model, transient wet-base conditions can occur as ice flows onto the unfrozen sediments of the lake bottom, creating conditions favorable to the entrainment of sediments and to ice accretion by water freezing.

Here we describe a situation where this model is consistent with an ice-composition study of the basal part of Suess Glacier, Taylor Valley. The stable isotope composition indicates that water freezing, most probably lake water, plays a major role in the formation of the basal ice layers. Total gas content of this basal ice is considerably depleted when compared to meteoric glacier ice, in accordance with a rejection mechanism during freezing. Its gas composition, strongly enriched in CO2, is also indicative of the presence of a former liquid phase.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1999-01-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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