Lake Vostok, isolated from direct exchange with the atmosphere by about 4 km of ice for millions of years, provides a unique environment. This inaccessibility raises the importance of numerical models to investigate the physical conditions within the lake. Using a three-dimensional numerical model and the best available geometry, we test different parameter settings to define a standard model configuration suitable for studying flow in this subglacial lake. From our model runs we find a baroclinic circulation within the lake that splits into three different parts: Along a topographic ridge in the northern part of Lake Vostok, bottom water masses are transported eastward, diverging away from the ridge. In the lakes surface layer, the flow in these two vertical overturning cells has opposite directions. In the southern part of the lake, where freezing occurs across about 3,500 km^2, two opposing gyres split the water column vertically. The general flow isstronger in the southern basin with horizontal velocities in the order of 1 mm/s. The strongest upwelling, found in the eastern part of this basin, is about 25 μm/s. We estimate the lower limit of the overturning timescale to be about 2.5 years vertically and 8.6 years horizontally. The basal mass loss of ice from the ice sheet floating on the lake is 5.6 mm/year (equivalent to a fresh water flux of 2.78 m^3/s, or a basal ice loss of 0.09 km^3/year). This imbalance indicates either a constant growth of the lake or its continuous (or periodical) discharge into a subglacial drainage system.
Helmholtz Research Programs > MARCOPOLI (2004-2008) > MAR2-Palaeo Climate Mechanisms and Variability