Research highlight

Fast flow in Antarctic outlet glacier during drainage of subglacial lakes (N&V)

Nature Geoscience

November 17, 2008

The flow rate of a large outlet glacier in East Antarctica increased by about 10% in response to the flooding of two subglacial lakes, reports a paper online in Nature Geoscience. This acceleration is associated with an increase in ice loss from the continent into the ocean over the 14 months between December 2005 and February 2007.

Leigh Stearns and colleagues combined a 48-year record of ice velocities along Byrd Glacier, East Antarctica with satellite observations of ice surface elevation and found a marked increase in ice flow speed between December 2005 and February 2007. This coincides with rapid changes in ice surface elevation about 200 km upstream, which they interpret as the filling and draining of two subglacial lakes.

In an accompanying News & Views article, Helen Amanda Fricker writes that, “Their pivotal paper provides the piece in the water?iceflow puzzle that had been missing so far: direct evidence for glacier acceleration as a result of subglacial floods.”

doi: 10.1038/ngeo356

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