Geological and glacial-hydrologic controls on chemical weathering in the subglacial environment

Joseph Graly*, Soroush Rezvanbehbahani

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Downloads (Pure)


A comparison of major ion chemistry of subglacial boreholes and discharging subglacial waters reveals three fundamentally different glacier hydrochemical regimes. Subglacial waters from alpine glaciers have chemistry distinct from the subglacial waters of Greenland or Antarctica. Greenland and Antarctica also differ fundamentally from each other, with Greenland Ice Sheet waters, at least during the summer melt season, remaining dilute and unaffected by saturation reactions and Antarctic Ice Sheet waters controlled by a range of saturation states. Some Antarctic waters form concentrated brines, capable of depressing the freezing point by >10°C. While these waters have only been directly sampled where they rarely emerge, geophysical observations from Devon Ice Cap and Greenland show liquid water at the glacier bed in locations where ice is thin and slowly moving and a cold bed is otherwise expected. This raises the possibility that lithogenic subglacial brines could be widespread and that our existing subglacial hydrochemical measurements might be biased by seasonal sampling of freely discharging water. The potential for diverse ranges of subglacial environments under ice sheets suggests the need for new and ambitious sampling programs to characterize difficult to access subglacial waters and quantify their impact on glacier dynamics, geobiology and global geochemical cycling.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)165-170
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number87-89
Early online date14 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2023

Cite this