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Remote sounding of Greenland supraglacial melt lakes: implications for subglacial hydraulics

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A supraglacial lake-depth retrieval function is developed, based on the correspondence between moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) reflectance and water depth measured during raft surveys. Individual lake depth, area and volume statistics, including short-term temporal changes for Greenland's southwestern ablation region, were compiled for 2000–05. The maximum area of an individual lake was found to be 8.9 km2, the maximum volume 53.0 × 106 m3 and the maximum depth 12.2 m, sampling over 0.0625 km2 pixel areas. The total lake volume reaches >1 km3 in this region by July each year. The importance of melt lake reservoirs to Greenland ice-sheet flow may be a feedback between abrupt lake drainage events and ice dynamics. Lake-outburst volumes up to 31.5 ×106 m3 d–1 are capable of providing sufficient water via moulins to hydraulically pressurize the subglacial environment. Since the overburden pressure at the base of a flooded moulin is greater than that provided by ice, lake-outburst events seem capable of exerting sufficient upward force to lift the ice sheet locally, if water flow in the subglacial environment is constrained laterally. Considering a moulin with a 10 m2 cross-sectional area, basal pressurization can be maintained over lake-outburst episodes lasting hours to days.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2007

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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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