04 Jul 2022
04 Jul 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Subglacial lake activity beneath the ablation zone of the Greenland Ice Sheet

Yubin Fan1,2,3, Chang-Qing Ke1,2,3, Xiaoyi Shen1,2,3, Yao Xiao1,2,3, Stephen J. Livingstone4, and Andrew J. Sole4 Yubin Fan et al.
  • 1Jiangsu Provincial Key Laboratory of Geographic Information Science and Technology, Key Laboratory for Land Satellite Remote Sensing Applications of Ministry of Natural Resources, School of Geography and Ocean Science, Nanjing University, Nanjing, 210023 China
  • 2Collaborative Innovation Center of Novel Software Technology and Industrialization, Nanjing, 210023 China
  • 3Collaborative Innovation Center of South China Sea Studies, Nanjing, 210023 China
  • 4Geography Department, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK, S10 2TN

Abstract. Hydrologically active subglacial lakes can drain large volumes of water and sediment along subglacial pathways, affecting the motion and mass balance of ice masses, and impacting downstream sediment dynamics. Only seven active lakes have been reported beneath the Greenland Ice Sheet (GrIS) to date, and thus a systematic understanding of their spatial distribution and dynamic processes is still lacking. Here, using the ICESat-2 ATL11 data, we identified 61 active subglacial lakes, 59 of which have not been previously reported. The identification of active subglacial lakes beneath the GrIS is complicated by the occurrence of supraglacial lakes, which also fill and drain, and are hypothesized to be almost co-located. However, the ability of ICESat-2 to penetrate through shallow surface water allowed us to correct the elevation provided by the ATL11 data. A significant localized elevation anomaly was still measured in all detected subglacial lakes after correction, revealing that 18 subglacial lakes are twinned with supraglacial lakes. The active subglacial lakes have large upstream hydrological catchments and are located near or below the equilibrium line. These observations suggest that active subglacial lakes are widespread components of the subglacial drainage system and provide critical information for understanding their activity.

Yubin Fan et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on tc-2022-122', Zachary Fair, 27 Jul 2022
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2022-122', Anonymous Referee #2, 27 Sep 2022

Yubin Fan et al.


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Short summary
We used the new-generation ICESat-2 altimeter to detect and monitor active subglacial lakes in unprecedented spatiotemporal detail. We created a new inventory of 61 active subglacial lakes as well as their elevation and volume changes during 2019–2020, which provide an improved understanding of how the Greenland subglacial water system operates and how these lakes are fed by water from the ice surface.