Christina L. Hulbe

Date of Award

Spring 6-4-2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.) in Geology



Physical Description

1 online resource (xvi, 68 pages)


Ice sheets -- Antarctica -- Mathematical models, Ice streams -- Antarctica, Subglacial lakes -- Antarctica




Subglacial water plays an important role in the regulation of an ice sheet's mass balance. It may be the dominant control on the velocities of ice streams and outlet glaciers on scales of months to millennia. Recent satellite observations of ice surface elevation changes have given researchers new insights into how subglacial water is stored and transported. Localized uplift and settling of the ice surface implies that lakes exist beneath the ice sheet that are being filled and drained on relatively short time scales. %At the base of an ice sheet water can be transported through a variety of drainage networks or stored in subglacial lakes.

Here, a numerical investigation of the mechanisms of transport and storage of subglacial water and the associated time scales is presented. Experiments are carried out using a finite element model of coupled ice and water flow. The first experiment seeks to understand the relationship between the depth of a basal depression and the area over which the feature affects basal water flow. It is found that as the perturbation to a topographic depression's depth is increased, water is rerouted in response to the perturbation. Additionally it is found that the relationship between perturbation depth and the extent upstream to which its effects reach is nonlinear. The second experiment examines how the aspect ratio of bed features (prolate, oblate, or equidimensional) influences basal water flow. It is found that the systems that develop and their interactions are mediated by both the topography and the feedbacks taken into account by the coupling of the systems in the model. Features oriented parallel to ice and water flow are associated with distributed fan systems that develop branches which migrate laterally across the domain and interact with one another on monthly and yearly timescales. Laterally oriented features develop laterally extensive ponds. As the ratio of longitudinal to lateral dimension of the topography is increased, a combination of these two water distributions is seen.

Persistent Identifier