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Ice-flow sensitivity to boundary processes: a coupled model study in the Vostok Subglacial Lake area, Antarctica

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Thoma, M. , Grosfeld, K. , Mayer, C. and Pattyn, F. (2012): Ice-flow sensitivity to boundary processes: a coupled model study in the Vostok Subglacial Lake area, Antarctica , Annals of Glaciology, 53 (60), pp. 173-180 . doi: 10.3189/2012AoG60A009
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Abstract:

Several hundred subglacial lakes have been identified beneath Antarctica so far. Their interaction with the overlying ice sheet and their influence on ice dynamics are still subjects of investigation.While it is known that lakes reduce the ice-sheet friction towards a free-slip basal boundary condition, little is known about how basal melting and freezing at the lake/ice interface modifies the ice dynamics, thermal regime and ice rheology. In this diagnostic study we simulate the Vostok Subglacial Lake area with a coupled full Stokes 3-D ice-flow model and a 3-D lake-circulation model. The exchange of energy (heat) and mass at the lake/ice interface increases (decreases) the temperature in the ice column above the lake by up to 10% in freezing (melting) areas, resulting in a significant modification of the highly nonlinear ice viscosity. We show that basal lubrication at the bottom of the ice sheet has a significant impact not only on the ice flow above the lake itself, but also on the vicinity and far field. While the ice flow crosses Vostok Subglacial Lake, flow divergence is observed and modelled. The heterogeneous basal-mass-balance pattern at the lake/ice interface intensifies this divergence. Instead of interactive coupling between the ice-flow model and the lake-flow model, only a single iteration is required for a realistic representation of the ice/water interaction. In addition, our study indicates that simplified parameterizations of the surface temperature boundary condition might lead to a velocity error of 20% for the area of investigation.

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