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Observing the subglacial hydrology network and its dynamics with a dense seismic array

Abstract : Subglacial water flow strongly modulates glacier basal motion, which itself strongly influences the contributions of glaciers and ice sheets to sea level rise. However, our understanding of when and where subglacial water flow enhances or impedes glacier flow is limited due to the paucity of direct observations of subglacial drainage characteristics. Here, we demonstrate that dense seismic array observations combined with an innovative systematic seismic source location technique allows the retrieval of a two-dimensional map of a subglacial drainage system, as well as its day-to-day temporal evolution. We observe with unprecedented detail when and where subglacial water flows through a cavity-like system that enhances glacier flow versus when and where water mainly flows through a channel-like system that impedes glacier flow. Most importantly, we are able to identify regions of high hydraulic connectivity within and across the cavity and channel systems, which have been identified as having a major impact on the long-term glacier response to climate warming. Applying a similar seismic monitoring strategy in other glacier settings, including for ice sheets, may help to diagnose the susceptibility of their dynamics to increased meltwater input due to climate warming.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, March 2, 2022 - 3:58:27 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 26, 2022 - 3:24:23 AM

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Ugo Nanni, Florent Gimbert, Philippe Roux, Albanne Lecointre. Observing the subglacial hydrology network and its dynamics with a dense seismic array. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2021, 118, ⟨10.1073/pnas.2023757118⟩. ⟨insu-03594399⟩

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