Articles | Volume 9, issue 1
Brief communication
15 Jan 2015
Brief communication |  | 15 Jan 2015

Brief Communication: Sudden drainage of a subglacial lake beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet

I. M. Howat, C. Porter, M. J. Noh, B. E. Smith, and S. Jeong

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Revised manuscript accepted for TC
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Cited articles

Bartholomew, I., Nienow, P., Sole, A., Mair, D., Cowton, T., Palmer, S., and Wadham, J.: Supraglacial forcing of subglacial drainage in the ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet, Geophys. Res. Lett., 38, L08502,, 2011.
Borsa, A. A., Moholdt, G., Fricker, H. A., and Brunt, K. M.: A range correction for ICESat and its potential impact on ice-sheet mass balance studies, The Cryosphere, 8, 345–357,, 2014.
Chandler, D. M., Wadham, J. L., Lis, G. P., Cowton, T., Sole, A., Bartholomew, I., Telling, J., Nienow, P., Bagshaw, E. B., Mair, D., Vinen, S., and Hubbard, A.: Evolution of the subglacial drainage system beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet revealed by tracers, Nature Geosci., 6, 195–198, 2013.
Clarke, G. C.: Glaciology: Ice-sheet Plumbing in Antarctica, Nature, 440, 1000–1001,, 2006.
Cuffey, K. M. and Paterson, W. S. B.: The Physics of Glaciers, 4, Butterworth-Heinemann, Amsterdam, 72–73, 2010.
Short summary
In the summer of 2011, a large crater appeared in the surface of the Greenland Ice Sheet. It formed when a subglacial lake, equivalent to 10,000 swimming pools, catastrophically drained in less than 14 days. This is the first direct evidence that surface meltwater that drains through cracks to the bed of the ice sheet can build up in subglacial lakes over long periods of time. The sudden drainage may have been due to more surface melting and an increase in meltwater reaching the bed.