How do firn aqufiers change the water drainage system under a glacier? If firn aquifers drain irregularly in time, or continuously in time, or even if they drain in sync with the melt season, we’re finding that they have a substantial effect on the subglacial hydrologic system downstream.
The flow of ice and meltwater from the Greenland Ice Sheet into the ocean affects sea levels. Ice flow is sensitive to meltwater that travels underneath the glacier. Where and when that water reaches the glacier bed shapes the water channel network under the glacier. We use a computer model to analyze how firn aquifers, newly discovered meltwater pockets that sit dozens of meters below the ice sheet surface in east Greenland, change the water channel network under local glaciers. We find that the firn‐aquifer water supply can maintain a water channel network under the glacier that changes less over each season, compared to areas without firn‐aquifer water. This subglacial channelization could explain observations of steadier glacier flow in locations with firn aquifers.
(see Plain Language Summary at https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2019GL082786)
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