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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  17 Aug 2020

17 Aug 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

The cooling signature of basal crevasses in a hard-bedded region of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Ian E. McDowell1, Neil F. Humphrey1, Joel T. Harper2, and Toby W. Meierbachtol2 Ian E. McDowell et al.
  • 1Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming, 82071, USA
  • 2Department of Geosciences, University of Montana, Missoula, Montana, 59812, USA

Abstract. Temperature sensors installed in a grid of 9 full-depth boreholes drilled in the southwestern ablation zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet consistently record cooling over time within the lowest third of the ice column. Rates of temperature change outpace cooling expected from vertical conduction alone. Additionally, observed static temperature profiles deviate significantly from modeled purely diffusional thermal profiles, implying strong non-conductive heat transfer processes within the lowest portion of the ice column. Although numerous heat sources exist to add energy and warm ice as it moves from the central divide towards the margin such as strain heat from internal deformation, latent heat from refreezing meltwater, and the conduction of geothermal heat across the ice-bedrock interface, identifying heat sinks proves more difficult. After eliminating possible mechanisms that could cause cooling, we find that the observed cooling is a manifestation of previous warming in basal ice. Thermal decay after latent heat is released from freezing water in basal crevasses is the most likely mechanism resulting in the temporal evolution of temperature and the vertical thermal structure observed at our site. Basal crevasses are a viable englacial heat source in the basal ice of Greenland's ablation zone and may have a controlling influence on the temperature structure of the near basal ice.

Ian E. McDowell et al.

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Ian E. McDowell et al.

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Full-depth ice temperature measurements from southwestern Greenland’s ablation zone, 2015-2017 Ian McDowell, Neil Humphrey, Joel Harper, and Toby Meierbachtol

Ian E. McDowell et al.


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Latest update: 23 Sep 2020
Publications Copernicus
Short summary
Ice temperature controls rates of internal deformation and the onset of basal sliding. To identify heat transfer mechanisms and englacial heat sources within Greenland's ablation zone, we examine a 2–3 year continuous temperature record from nine full-depth boreholes. Thermal decay after basal crevasses release heat in the near-basal ice likely produces the observed cooling. Basal crevasses in Greenland can affect the basal ice rheology and indicate a potentially complex basal hydrologic system.
Ice temperature controls rates of internal deformation and the onset of basal sliding. To...