Given expected increases in meltwater generation over the coming decades, understanding the state of the subglacial hydrologic system of Helheim Glacier is crucial to projecting future ice mass loss. We are conducting a system-scale characterization of the hydrology of Helheim Glacier, starting at its origins where the firn aquifer drains to the bed through crevasses.
Over three field seasons (2022, 2023, 2024), we will deploy a half-dozen geophysical instruments to observe the water inside and under Helheim Glacier from its surface. These instruments include a seismoelectric exploration system, strain diamonds of GPS receivers in a crevasse field, multiple radars (ApRES and “regular” ground-penetrating radar), and magnetic resonance technology.
The time-evolution of crevasse width we will observe is directly comparable to the output of the crevasse propagation model we are developing. The crevasse model, in turn, sits within a broader system of models that follows the water form the surface, downward through the snow, laterally through the firn aquifer, through the crevasse and, finally, to the subglacial water system that leads to the ocean. The GPS data will be used to validate the first three stages of this hydrologic system model.
Our collaborators are at Georgia Tech (Winnie Chu’s lab) and Dartmouth (Colin Meyer’s lab).
The Heising-Simons Foundation has funded this project as part of a large effort to characterize the recent behavior of Helheim Glacier, from the snow surface to the fjord mouth.