To contrast continental and alpine subglacial weathering regimes and thereby assess the role of large ice masses in chemical weathering, borehole and outlet water samples were collected from multiple locations on a major, land-terminating outlet of the Greenland Ice Sheet. Boreholes, reaching ice depths to 824 m, were drilled to the bed with hot-water methods in four areas of the ice sheet ablation zone along a 45 km transect extending inland from the outlet terminus. The bulk chemical composition of these samples shows substantially less influence of sulfides and carbonates than found in alpine glaciers, suggesting that the sediment under this region of the ice sheet has become depleted of accessory minerals. The waters show wide variability in chemical composition over both large and small temporal-spatial scales, suggesting large ranges in length of subglacial water storage and in rates of abrasion and comminution of subglacial earth materials. The dissolved solids concentrations found in the Greenland Ice Sheet are comparable to and in some cases exceed those of alpine glaciers, suggesting that large ice masses are capable of generating substantial dissolved loads through silicate weathering mechanisms.

You do not currently have access to this article.