Modeling saline fluid flow in subglacial ice-walled channels

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Date

2022

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science

Abstract

Subglacial hydrological systems have impacts on ice dynamics as well as nutrient and sediment transport. There has been an extensive effort to understand the dynamics of subglacial drainage through numerical modeling, however these models have focused on freshwater, neglecting the consideration of brine. Saline fluid can exist in cold-based glacier systems where freshwater cannot. Therefore, there exist subglacial hydrological systems where the only fluid is brine. Understanding the routing of saline fluid is important for understanding geochemical and microbiological processes in these saline cryospheric habitats. In this thesis, I present a model of channelized drainage from a hypersaline subglacial lake and highlight the impact of saline fluid 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 results in greater peak discharge and faster drainage for a fixed lake volume. This model provides a framework to assess the relative impact of brine on discharge and drainage duration.

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