Thermal conditions at the bed of the Laurentide ice sheet in Maine during deglaciation: implications for esker formation

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The University of Maine Ice Sheet Model was used to study basal conditions during retreat of the Laurentide ice sheet in Maine. Within 150 km of the margin, basal melt rates average ∼5 mm a–1 during retreat. They decline over the next 100 km, so areas of frozen bed develop in northern Maine during retreat. By integrating the melt rate over the drainage area typically subtended by an esker, we obtained a discharge at the margin of ∼1.2 m3s–1. While such a discharge could have moved the material in the Katahdin esker, it was likely too low to build the esker in the time available. Additional water from the glacier surface was required. Temperature gradients in the basal ice increase rapidly with distance from the margin. By conducting upward into the ice all of the additional viscous heat produced by any perturbation that increases the depth of flow in a flat conduit in a distributed drainage system, these gradients inhibit the formation of sharply arched conduits in which an esker can form. This may explain why eskers commonly seem to form near the margin and are typically segmented, with later segments overlapping onto earlier ones.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 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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