Subglacial water storage and drainage beneath the Fennoscandian and Barents Sea ice sheets

Calvin Shackleton, Henry Patton, Alun Hubbard, Monica Winsborrow, Jonathan Kingslake, Mariana Esteves, Karin Andreassen, Sarah L. Greenwood

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22 Citations (SciVal)


Subglacial hydrology modulates how ice sheets flow, respond to climate, and deliver meltwater, sediment and nutrients to proglacial and marine environments. Here, we investigate the development of subglacial lakes and drainage networks beneath the Fennoscandian and Barents Sea ice sheets over the Late Weichselian. Utilizing an established coupled climate/ice flow model, we calculate high-resolution, spatio-temporal changes in subglacial hydraulic potential from ice sheet build-up (∼37 ka BP) to complete deglaciation (∼10 ka BP). Our analysis predicts up to 3500 potential subglacial lakes, the largest of which was 658 km2, and over 70% of which had surface areas <10 km2, comparable with subglacial lake-size distributions beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet. Asynchronous evolution of the Fennoscandian Ice Sheet into the flatter relief of northeast Europe affected patterns of subglacial drainage, with up to 100 km3 more water impounded within subglacial lakes during ice build-up compared to retreat. Furthermore, we observe frequent fill/drain cycles within clusters of subglacial lakes at the onset zones and margins of ice streams that would have affected their dynamics. Our results resonate with mapping of large subglacial channel networks indicative of high-discharge meltwater drainage through the Gulf of Bothnia and central Barents Sea. By tracking the migration of meltwater drainage outlets during deglaciation, we constrain locations most susceptible to focussed discharge, including the western continental shelf-break where subglacial sediment delivery led to the development of major trough-mouth fans. Maps of hydraulic potential minima that persist throughout the Late Weichselian reveal potential sites for preserved subglacial lake sediments, thereby defining useful targets for further field-investigation
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-28
Number of pages16
JournalQuaternary Science Reviews
Early online date17 Oct 2018
Publication statusPublished - 01 Dec 2018


  • subglacial lakes
  • basal hydrology
  • meltwater drainage
  • Fennoscandian ice sheet
  • Barents sea ice sheet
  • Eurasian ice sheet complex
  • late weichselian
  • last glacial maximum
  • glacial geology
  • glaciation
  • Glacial geology
  • Glaciation
  • Subglacial lakes
  • Meltwater drainage
  • Last glacial maximum
  • Late weichselian
  • Basal hydrology


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