A dynamic saline groundwater system mapped beneath an Antarctic ice stream
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Shallow, dynamic subglacial water systems provide lubrication that facilitates the movement of overlying ice. But are these thin layers the whole story? Gustafson et al. show that the subglacial sediments beneath Whillans Ice Stream in West Antarctica are saturated with a mixture of fossil seawater and freshwater from the glacier (see the Perspective by Chu). This groundwater, extending downward for more than a kilometer, contains more than 10 times as much fluid volume as the shallow hydrologic system above and actively exchanges with it. Therefore, it has the potential to modulate ice streaming and subglacial biogeochemical reactions.
Gustafson, C. D., Key, K., Siegfried, M. R., Winberry, J. P., Fricker, H. A., Venturelli, R. A., & Michaud, A. B. (2022). A dynamic saline groundwater system mapped beneath an Antarctic ice stream. Science, 376(6593), 640–644. https://doi.org/10.1126/science.abm3301
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