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Numerical modelling of ice-sheet dynamics across the Vostok subglacial lake, central East Antarctica

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A numerical model of the ice-sheet/ice-shelf transition was used to investigate ice-sheet dynamics across the large subglacial lake beneath Vostok station, central East Antarctica. European Remote-sensing Satellite (ERS-1) altimetry of the ice surface and 60 MHz radio-echo sounding (RES) of the ice-sheet base and internal ice-sheet layering were used to develop a conceptual flowline across the ice sheet, which the model used as input. The model calculates horizontal and vertical velocities and stresses, from which particle flow paths can be obtained, and the ice-sheet temperature distribution. An inverse approach to modelling was adopted, where particle flow paths were forced to match those identified from internal RES layering. Results show that ice dynamics across the inflow grounding line are similar to an ice-sheet/ice-shelf transition. Model particle flow paths match internal RES layering when ice is (a) taken away from the ice base across the first 2 km of the flowline over the lake and (b) added to the base across the remainder of the lake. We contend that the process causing this transfer of ice is likely to be melting of ice and freezing of water at the ice—water interface. Other explanations, such as enhanced rates of accumulation over the grounding line, or three-dimensional convergent/divergent flow of ice are inconsistent with available measurements. Such melting and refreezing would be responsible for circulation and mixing of at least the surface layers of the lake water. Our model suggests that several tens of metres of refrozen "basal ice" would accrete from lake water to the ice sheet before the ice regrounds.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2000

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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