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Modelling the evolution of supraglacial lakes on the West Greenland ice-sheet margin

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We present a model study investigating the summer evolution of supraglacial lakes on the Greenland ice margin. Using a one-dimensional (1-D) model we calculate the surface ablation for a bare ice surface and beneath supraglacial lakes for 30 days in the summers of 1999 and 2001. The surface ablation beneath the lake was enhanced by 110% in 1999 and 170% in 2001 compared with the ablation for bare ice. We then use the results from the 1-D model to further model the vertical and horizontal evolution of the supraglacial lakes, the results of which are compared with satellite images. Within the region of the ice sheet where supraglacial lakes presently occur, the area covered by supraglacial lakes is found to be more or less independent of the summer melt rate but controlled by topography. We therefore predict that, inside this region, the area covered by supraglacial lakes will remain constant even in a warmer climate. However, in a warmer climate, surface melting will occur higher on the ice sheet where small surface slopes favour formation of large supraglacial lakes. Enhanced surface melting beneath such lakes is a hitherto overlooked feedback mechanism related to climate warming.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756506781828386

Publication date: December 1, 2006

More about this publication?
  • 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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