Abstract

Interactions between subglacial hydrology and the ocean make the existence of estuaries at the grounding zones of ice sheets likely. Here we present geophysical observations of an estuary at the downstream end of the hydrologic system that links the active subglacial lakes beneath Whillans Ice Stream to the ocean beneath the Ross Ice Shelf, Antarctica. This subglacial estuary consists of a hydropotential low upstream of the grounding zone, which is linked to the ocean by a hydropotential trough and a large subglacial channel. This subglacial channel, which is imaged using active source seismic methods, has an apparent width of 1 km and a maximum depth of 7 m. The hydropotential trough continues upstream of the grounding zone and results from an along-flow depression in surface elevations. Pressure differences along the trough axis are within a range that can be overcome by tidally induced processes, making the interaction of subglacial and ocean water likely.

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