Collaborative Research: Elevation Change Anomalies in West Antarctica - Do They Provide Constraints on Subglacial Water Transport Beneath Ice Streams and Their Tributaries?
We are using field and remote sensing data to investigate Elevation Change Anomalies (ECAs) discovered recently in the Ross Sea sector of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), which reveal the filling and draining of subglacial lakes. Through the remote sensing research component based at UW, we are determining the spatial distribution of subglacial lakes for the entire continent using ICESAT elevation data. These data complement the ground based GPS observations being acquired through the UCSC led field effort.
Our analysis of the ICESAT data detected 124 lakes that were active during this period 5.5 year period where these we acquired. These ICESat-detected lakes are prevalent in coastal Antarctica, and are present under most of the largest outlet drainage systems. Lakes sometimes appear to transfer water from one to another, but also often exchange water with distributed sources not detectable by ICESat, suggesting that the lakes may provide water to or withdraw water from the reservoirs that lubricate glacier flow. This may allow lake activity to produce rapid temporal changes in glacier speeds.