Journal cover Journal topic
The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
The Cryosphere, 9, 123-138, 2015
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-9-123-2015
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
22 Jan 2015
Modelling the transfer of supraglacial meltwater to the bed of Leverett Glacier, Southwest Greenland
C. C. Clason1, D. W. F. Mair2, P. W. Nienow3, I. D. Bartholomew3, A. Sole4, S. Palmer5, and W. Schwanghart6 1Department of Physical Geography and Quaternary Geology, Stockholm University, 106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
2Geography and Environment, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, AB24 3UF, UK
3School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, EH8 9XP, UK
4Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK
5Geography, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter, Exeter, EX4 4RJ, UK
6Institute of Earth and Environmental Science, University of Potsdam, 14476 Potsdam-Golm, Germany
Abstract. Meltwater delivered to the bed of the Greenland Ice Sheet is a driver of variable ice-motion through changes in effective pressure and enhanced basal lubrication. Ice surface velocities have been shown to respond rapidly both to meltwater production at the surface and to drainage of supraglacial lakes, suggesting efficient transfer of meltwater from the supraglacial to subglacial hydrological systems. Although considerable effort is currently being directed towards improved modelling of the controlling surface and basal processes, modelling the temporal and spatial evolution of the transfer of melt to the bed has received less attention. Here we present the results of spatially distributed modelling for prediction of moulins and lake drainages on the Leverett Glacier in Southwest Greenland. The model is run for the 2009 and 2010 ablation seasons, and for future increased melt scenarios. The temporal pattern of modelled lake drainages are qualitatively comparable with those documented from analyses of repeat satellite imagery. The modelled timings and locations of delivery of meltwater to the bed also match well with observed temporal and spatial patterns of ice surface speed-ups. This is particularly true for the lower catchment (<1000 m a.s.l.) where both the model and observations indicate that the development of moulins is the main mechanism for the transfer of surface meltwater to the bed. At higher elevations (e.g. 1250–1500 m a.s.l.) the development and drainage of supraglacial lakes becomes increasingly important. At these higher elevations, the delay between modelled melt generation and subsequent delivery of melt to the bed matches the observed delay between the peak air temperatures and subsequent velocity speed-ups, while the instantaneous transfer of melt to the bed in a control simulation does not. Although both moulins and lake drainages are predicted to increase in number for future warmer climate scenarios, the lake drainages play an increasingly important role in both expanding the area over which melt accesses the bed and in enabling a greater proportion of surface melt to reach the bed.

Citation: Clason, C. C., Mair, D. W. F., Nienow, P. W., Bartholomew, I. D., Sole, A., Palmer, S., and Schwanghart, W.: Modelling the transfer of supraglacial meltwater to the bed of Leverett Glacier, Southwest Greenland, The Cryosphere, 9, 123-138, https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-9-123-2015, 2015.
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