28 Apr 2023
 | 28 Apr 2023

Modeling saline fluid flow through subglacial ice-walled channels and the impact of density on fluid flux

Amy Jenson, Mark Skidmore, Lucas Beem, Martin Truffer, and Scott McCalla

Abstract. Subglacial hydrological systems have impacts on ice dynamics, as well as, nutrient and sediment transport. There has been extensive effort to understand the dynamics of subglacial drainage through numerical modeling. These models, however, have focused on freshwater in warm ice and neglected the consideration of fluid chemistry such as salts. Saline fluid can exist in cold-based glacier systems where freshwater cannot and understanding the routing of saline fluid is important for understanding geochemical and microbiological processes in these saline cryospheric habitats. A better characterization of such terrestrial environments may provide insight to analogous systems on other planetary bodies. We present a model of channelized drainage from a hypersaline subglacial lake and highlight the impact of salinity on melt rates in an ice-walled channel. The model results show that channel walls grow more quickly when fluid contains higher salt concentrations which lead to higher discharge rates. We show this is due to a higher density fluid moving through a gravitational potential. This model provides a framework to assess the impact of fluid chemistry and properties on the spatial and temporal variation of fluid flux.

Amy Jenson 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 egusphere-2023-792', Anonymous Referee #1, 01 Jun 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Amy Jenson, 24 Jul 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on egusphere-2023-792', Anonymous Referee #2, 05 Jun 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Amy Jenson, 24 Jul 2023

Amy Jenson et al.

Model code and software

Subglacial brine flow Amy Jenson, Mark Skidmore, Lucas Beem, Martin Truffer, Scott McCalla

Amy Jenson et al.


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Short summary
Water in some glacier environments contains salt which increases the density of the fluid and decreases the freezing point of the fluid. As a result, hypersaline lakes can exist in places where freshwater cannot and can contain unique microbiological communities. We model the flow of saline fluid from a subglacial lake through a channel at the glacier bed. The results suggest that fluid with higher salinity reach higher discharge rates compared to fresh water due to increased fluid density.