Topographic and hydrological controls on Subglacial Lake Ellsworth, West Antarctica

David Vaughan, Andrés Rivera, John Woodward, Hugh Corr, Jens Wendt, Rodrigo Zamora

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28 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Subglacial Lake Ellsworth (SLE) was identified using reconnaissance data collected in the 1970s, here we present more detailed surveys. SLE lies beneath 3.2 km of ice in a subglacial valley in West Antarctica. It has an area of only ∼ 18 km2, is dissimilar to the large tectonically-controlled lakes beneath East Antarctica and is a strong candidate for in situ exploration. Our analysis indicates that the ice above SLE is floating on a fluid whose density is 950-1013 kg m-3. This could indicate freshwater, but certainly precludes seawater, or high salt, acid, or clathrate content. The water in the lake is unlikely to be produced solely by local melt; it is more likely delivered via subglacial drainage. Our surveys show no identifiable hydrological barrier to outflow, meaning SLE is effectively full; new water entering the lake is likely balanced by outflow, which would drain into another lake that we have also identified.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Volume34
Issue number18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sep 2007

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