Modeling the Dynamics of Surface-slope Reversals and their Role in the Formation and Stability of Subglacial Lakes

Project: Research project

Project Details


This award supports a three-year modeling effort to understand the dynamics surrounding ice-air surface slope reversals on ice streams and ice shelves, with implications for the creation and stability of subglacial lakes. Local reversal of the ice-air surface slope may lead, through a reversal of the hydraulic gradient, to the trapping of basal and surface water, producing subglacial and supraglacial lakes, respectively. In the case of subglacial lakes, once such a sizable reservoir of pressurized water is created the potential exists for drainage, in the form of large outburst floods or as smaller, but sustained, periods of increased subglacial water flow. The research seeks to extend some initial work that has been done to include time-dependence and a wider array of parameters and geometries. The methods will involve the use of a suite of models, all of which will include longitudinal deviatoric and basal-shear stresses, with some also taking account of lateral drag and internal vertical shear. The intellectual merit of the proposed activity includes an improved understanding of the processes and parameters involved in the formation of surface-slope reversals in ice-stream/ice-shelf systems, as well as insight into the stability of subglacial lakes formed as a consequence of slope reversals. The broader impacts resulting from this activity include the provision of tools to study the dynamics of ice-stream/ice-shelf systems, an improved understanding of the physics behind outburst floods, and insights into the coupling of ice streams with their subglacial water systems. The research will support the studies of a beginning postdoctoral researcher. Results of the research will be incorporated into courses and public outreach serving anywhere from hundreds to thousands of people per year.

Effective start/end date1/1/052/29/08


  • National Science Foundation: $295,624.00


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