Fracture propagation to the base of the Greenland Ice Sheet during supraglacial lake drainage

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Das, Sarah B.
Joughin, Ian
Behn, Mark D.
Howat, Ian M.
King, Matt A.
Lizarralde, Daniel
Bhatia, Maya P.
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Surface meltwater that reaches the base of an ice sheet creates a mechanism for the rapid response of ice flow to climate change. The process whereby such a pathway is created through thick, cold ice has not, however, been previously observed. We describe the rapid (<2 hours) drainage of a large supraglacial lake down 980 m through to the bed of the Greenland Ice Sheet initiated by water-driven fracture propagation evolving into moulin flow. Drainage coincided with increased seismicity, transient acceleration, ice sheet uplift and horizontal displacement. Subsidence and deceleration occurred over the following 24 hours. The short-lived dynamic response suggests an efficient drainage system dispersed the meltwater subglacially. The integrated effect of multiple lake drainages could explain the observed net regional summer ice speedup.
Author Posting. © The Authors, 2008. This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of American Association for the Advancement of Science for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Science 320 (2008): 778-781, doi:10.1126/science.1153360.
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