Topographic and hydrological controls on Subglacial Lake Ellsworth, West Antarctica

Vaughan, David G.; Rivera, Andrés; Woodward, John; Corr, Hugh F.J.; Wendt, Jens; Zamora, Rodrigo. 2007 Topographic and hydrological controls on Subglacial Lake Ellsworth, West Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters, 34 (18), L18501. 5, pp. 10.1029/2007GL030769

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Subglacial Lake Ellsworth (SLE) was identified using reconnaissance data collected in the 1970s, here we present more detailed surveys. SLE lies beneath 3.2 km of ice in a subglacial valley in West Antarctica. It has an area of only similar to 18 km(2), is dissimilar to the large tectonically-controlled lakes beneath East Antarctica and is a strong candidate for in situ exploration. Our analysis indicates that the ice above SLE is floating on a fluid whose density is 950-1013 kg m(-3). This could indicate freshwater, but certainly precludes seawater, or high salt, acid, or clathrate content. The water in the lake is unlikely to be produced solely by local melt; it is more likely delivered via subglacial drainage. Our surveys show no identifiable hydrological barrier to outflow, meaning SLE is effectively full; new water entering the lake is likely balanced by outflow, which would drain into another lake that we have also identified.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): 10.1029/2007GL030769
Programmes: BAS Programmes > Global Science in the Antarctic Context (2005-2009) > Glacial Retreat in Antarctica and Deglaciation of the Earth System
ISSN: 0094-8276
NORA Subject Terms: Glaciology
Date made live: 26 Oct 2011 10:05

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