Tectonically controlled subglacial lakes on the flanks of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains, East Antarctica

Bell, Robin E.; Studinger, Michael; Fahnestock, Mark A.; Shuman, Christopher A.

The morphology of surface lakes strongly influences their ecology and limnology (Wetzel, 2001). This morphology is a result of both the geologic processes that produce topographic basins and the regional climatic and local hydrologic processes that control water depth and sediment infilling (Carroll and Bohacs, 1999). Although basin forming processes range from glacial scour to meteorite impacts (Cohen, 2003), the deepest, oldest surface lakes are tectonically controlled (Meybeck, 1995) and contain diverse exotic ecosystems (Rossiterm and Kawanabe, 2000). Subglacial lakes are also thought to be ancient systems that may contain exotic biota (Bulat et al., 2004; Karl et al., 1999; Priscu et al., 1999). Here we present evidence for the scale and configuration of 2 large subglacial lakes in East Antarctica that together with Lake Vostok define a province of major lakes on the flanks of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains. Spatially-defined in the new Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) imagery of Antarctica (T. Scambos et al., A MODIS-based mosaic of Antarctica: MOA, submitted to Remote Sensing of Environment, 2005, hereinafter referred to as Scambos et al., submitted manuscript, 2005), these lakes are aligned parallel to Lake Vostok. Other data shows that they are distinguished by distinct gravity lows, flat ice surface slopes and have estimated water depths of at least 900 m. Surface elevation data indicates that large deep subglacial lakes have a profound influence on the regional ice sheet topography and probably ice sheet flow. These deep subglacial lakes with elongate, rectilinear morphology are tectonically controlled features. Unlike the shallow lakes in West Antarctica and beneath Dome Concordia, these deep subglacial lakes remained stable environments through many glacial cycles since their origin 10-35 Ma enabling the development of novel ecosystems.


Also Published In

Geophysical Research Letters

More About This Work

Academic Units
Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Marine Geology and Geophysics
Published Here
July 20, 2011