28 Nov 2022
 | 28 Nov 2022
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal TC.

Surging of a Hudson Strait Scale Ice Stream: Subglacial hydrology matters but the process details don't

Matthew Drew and Lev Tarasov

Abstract. While subglacial hydrology is known to play a role in glacial dynamics on sub-annual to decadal scales, it remains unclear whether subglacial hydrology plays a critical role in ice sheet evolution on centennial or longer time-scales. Furthermore, several drainage topologies have been inferred but it is unclear which drainage topology is most applicable at the continental/glacial scale. More fundamentally, it is even unclear if the structural choice of subglacial hydrology truly matters for this context.

Here we compare three subglacial hydrology topologies as to their contribution to surge behaviour for an idealized Hudson Strait like ice stream. We use the newly updated model BraHms2.0 and provide model verification tests. BraHms2.0 incorporates each of these systems: two process-based forms dominant in the literature (linked-cavity and poro-elastic) and a non-mass conserving zero-dimensional form (herein termed leaky-bucket) coupled to an ice sheet systems model (the Glacial Systems Model, GSM).

We also assess the likely bounds on poorly constrained subglacial hydrology parameters and adopt an ensemble approach to study their impact and interactions within those bounds.

We find that subglacial hydrology is an important system inductance for realistic ice stream surging but that the three formulations all exhibit similar surge behaviour. Even a detail as fundamental as mass conserving transport of subglacial water is not necessary for simulating a full range of surge frequency and amplitude. However, one difference is apparent: the combined positive and negative feedbacks of the linked-cavity system yields longer duration surges and a broader range of effective pressures than its poro-elastic and leaky-bucket counterparts.

Matthew Drew and Lev Tarasov

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-2022-226', Anonymous Referee #1, 28 Dec 2022
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Matthew Drew, 22 Mar 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on tc-2022-226', Anonymous Referee #2, 09 Feb 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Matthew Drew, 22 Mar 2023

Matthew Drew and Lev Tarasov

Matthew Drew and Lev Tarasov


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Short summary
Interaction of fast flowing regions of continental ice sheets with their beds governs how quickly they slide and therefore flow. The coupling of fast ice to its bed is controlled by the pressure of melt water at its base. It is currently poorly understood how the physical details of these hydrologic systems affect ice speed up. Using numerical models we find, surprizingly, that they largely do not – except for the duration of the surge – suggesting that cheap models are sufficient.