skip to main content


Title: Isolated Cavities Dominate Greenland Ice Sheet Dynamic Response to Lake Drainage
Abstract

Seasonal variability in the Greenland Ice Sheet's (GrIS) sliding speed is regulated by the response of the subglacial drainage system to meltwater inputs. However, the importance of channelization relative to the dewatering of isolated cavities in controlling seasonal ice deceleration remains unsolved. Using ice motion, moulin hydraulic head, and glaciohydraulic tremor measurements, we show the passing of a subglacial floodwave triggered by upglacier supraglacial lake drainages slowed sliding to wintertime background speeds without increasing the hydraulic capacity of the moulin‐connected drainage system. We interpret these results to reflect an increase in basal traction caused by the dewatering of isolated cavities. These results suggest the dewatering of isolated parts of the subglacial drainage system play a key role in driving seasonal slowdowns on the GrIS.

 
more » « less
NSF-PAR ID:
10444439
Author(s) / Creator(s):
 ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  ;  
Publisher / Repository:
DOI PREFIX: 10.1029
Date Published:
Journal Name:
Geophysical Research Letters
Volume:
48
Issue:
19
ISSN:
0094-8276
Format(s):
Medium: X
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Abstract

    Links between hydrology and sliding of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) are poorly understood. Here, we monitored meltwater's propagation through the glacial hydrologic system for catchments at different elevations by quantifying the lag cascade as daily meltwater pulses traveled through the supraglacial, englacial, and subglacial drainage systems. We found that meltwater's residence time within supraglacial catchments—depending upon area, snow cover, and degree of channelization—controls the timing of peak moulin head, resulting in the 2 hr later peak observed at higher elevations. Unlike at lower elevations where peak moulin head and peak sliding coincided, at higher elevations peak sliding lagged peak moulin head by ∼2.8 hr. This delay was likely caused by the area's lower moulin density, which required diurnal pressure oscillations to migrate further into the distributed drainage system to elicit the observed velocity response. These observations highlight the supraglacial drainage system's control on coupling GrIS subglacial hydrology and sliding.

     
    more » « less
  2. Abstract

    Meltwater inputs to moulins regulate Greenland Ice Sheet sliding speeds by controlling water pressure in the most connected regions of the subglacial drainage system. While moulin storage capacities are a critical control on subglacial water pressure, few observations exist to constrain storage. Using direct observations inside moulins, we show that moulin cross‐sectional areas can be at least 500 m2, far greater than is observed at the surface or assumed in models. Moulin water level measurements and numerical modeling reveal that diurnal variability in moulin water pressure is highly attenuated in moulins with large storage volumes (3% ice pressure), relative to moulins with smaller storage volumes (25% ice pressure). Because large variability in moulin water pressure is linked to processes that ultimately reduce ice sliding speeds, ice sliding speeds in areas drained by large moulins may be more sensitive to long‐term increases in meltwater than areas drained by small moulins.

     
    more » « less
  3. Abstract

    Glacier sliding has major environmental consequences, but friction caused by debris in the basal ice of glaciers is seldom considered in sliding models. To include such friction, divergent hypotheses for clast‐bed contact forces require testing. In experiments we rotate an ice ring (outside diameter = 0.9 m), with and without isolated till clasts, over a smooth rock bed. Ice is kept at its pressure‐melting temperature, and meltwater drains along a film at the bed to atmospheric pressure at its edges. The ice pressure or bed‐normal component of ice velocity is controlled, while bed shear stress is measured. Results with debris‐free ice indicate friction coefficients < 0.01. Shear stresses caused by clasts in ice are independent of ice pressure. This independence indicates that with increases in ice pressure the water pressure in cavities observed beneath clasts increases commensurately to allow drainage of cavities into the melt film, leaving clast‐bed contact forces unaffected. Shear stresses, instead, are proportional to bed‐normal ice velocity. Cavities and the absence of regelation ice indicate that, unlike model formulations, regelation past clasts does not control contact forces. Alternatively, heat from the bed melts ice above clasts, creating pressure gradients in adjacent meltwater films that cause contact forces to depend on bed‐normal ice velocity. This model can account for observations if rock friction predicated on Hertzian clast‐bed contacts is assumed. Including debris‐bed friction in glacier sliding models will require coupling the ice velocity field near the bed to contact forces rather than imposing a pressure‐based friction rule.

     
    more » « less
  4. null (Ed.)
    Abstract Surface meltwater reaching the base of the Greenland Ice Sheet transits through drainage networks, modulating the flow of the ice sheet. Dye and gas-tracing studies conducted in the western margin sector of the ice sheet have directly observed drainage efficiency to evolve seasonally along the drainage pathway. However, the local evolution of drainage systems further inland, where ice thicknesses exceed 1000 m, remains largely unknown. Here, we infer drainage system transmissivity based on surface uplift relaxation following rapid lake drainage events. Combining field observations of five lake drainage events with a mathematical model and laboratory experiments, we show that the surface uplift decreases exponentially with time, as the water in the blister formed beneath the drained lake permeates through the subglacial drainage system. This deflation obeys a universal relaxation law with a timescale that reveals hydraulic transmissivity and indicates a two-order-of-magnitude increase in subglacial transmissivity (from 0.8 ± 0.3  $${\rm{m}}{{\rm{m}}}^{3}$$ m m 3 to 215 ± 90.2  $${\rm{m}}{{\rm{m}}}^{3}$$ m m 3 ) as the melt season progresses, suggesting significant changes in basal hydrology beneath the lakes driven by seasonal meltwater input. 
    more » « less
  5. Surface meltwater reaching the base of the Greenland Ice Sheet transits through drainage networks, modulating the flow of the ice sheet. Dye and gas-tracing studies conducted in the western margin sector of the ice sheet have directly observed drainage efficiency to evolve seasonally along the drainage pathway. However, the local evolution of drainage systems further inland, where ice thicknesses exceed 1000 m, remains largely unknown. Here, we infer drainage system transmissivity based on surface uplift relaxation following rapid lake drainage events. Combining field observations of five lake drainage events with a mathematical model and laboratory experiments, we show that the surface uplift decreases exponentially with time, as the water in the blister formed beneath the drained lake permeates through the subglacial drainage system. This deflation obeys a universal relaxation law with a timescale that reveals hydraulic transmissivity and indicates a two-order-of- magnitude increase in subglacial transmissivity (from 0.8 ± 0.3 mm3 to 215 ± 90.2 mm3) as the melt season progresses, suggesting significant changes in basal hydrology beneath the lakes driven by seasonal meltwater input. 
    more » « less