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Submarine melting at the terminus of a temperate tidewater glacier, LeConte Glacier, Alaska, U.S.A.

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Heat, fresh- and sea-water balances indicate that the late-summer rate of submarine melting at the terminus of tidewater LeConte Glacier, Alaska, U.S.A., in 2000 was about 12m d-1 w.e., averaged over the submerged face. This is 57% of the estimated total ice loss at the terminus (calving plus melting) at this time. Submarine melting may thus provide a significant contribution to the overall ablation of a tidewater glacier. Oceanographic measurements (conductivity–temperature–depth) made 200–500 m from the terminus identified an isohaline (27 ppt) and isothermal (7.2°C) layer extending from 130 m depth to the fjord floor. Capping this is a 40 m thick overflow plume, distinguished by high outflow rates, low salinity (22–25 ppt) and lower temperatures (5–6°C). Mixing models indicate that fresh water comprised about 11% of this plume; it originates mostly as sub-glacial discharge whose buoyancy drives convection at the terminus. Deep, warm saline waters are incorporated into the plume as it ascends, causing substantial melting of ice along the submarine face. The calving terminus undergoes seasonal changes that coincide with changes in subglacial discharge and fjord water temperatures, and we suggest that these fluctuations in terminus position are directly related to changes in submarine melting.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2003

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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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