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Fracture propagation to the base of the Greenland ice sheet during supraglacial lake drainage

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Matt King

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Abstract

Surface meltwater that reaches the base of an ice sheet creates a mechanism for the rapid response of ice flow to climate change. The process whereby such a pathway is created through thick, cold ice has not, however, been previously observed. We describe the rapid (<2 hours) drainage of a large supraglacial lake down 980 meters through to the bed of the Greenland Ice Sheet initiated by water-driven fracture propagation evolving into moulin flow. Drainage coincided with increased seismicity, transient acceleration, ice-sheet uplift, and horizontal displacement. Subsidence and deceleration occurred over the subsequent 24 hours. The short-lived dynamic response suggests that an efficient drainage system dispersed the meltwater subglacially. The integrated effect of multiple lake drainages could explain the observed net regional summer ice speedup.


Publication metadata

Author(s): Das SB, Joughin I, Behn MD, Howat IM, King MA, Lizarralde D, Bhatia MP

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Science

Year: 2008

Volume: 320

Issue: 5877

Pages: 778-781

ISSN (print): 0036-8075

ISSN (electronic): 1095-9203

Publisher: American Association for the Advancement of Science

URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/science.1153360

DOI: 10.1126/science.1153360


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