Glaciation and regional ground-water flow in the Fennoscandian Shield: Site 94

SKI Report 96:11

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Results from a regional-scale ground-water flow model of the Fennoscandian shield suggest that ground-water flow is strongly affected by surface conditions associated with climatic change and glaciation. The model was used to run a series of numerical simulations of variable-density ground-water flow in a 1500-km-long and approximately 10-km-deep cross-section that passes through southern Sweden. Ground-water flow and shield brine transport in the cross-sectional model are controlled by an assumed time evolution of surface conditions over the next 140 ka.

Simulations show that, under periglacial conditions, permafrost may locally or extensively impede the free recharge or discharge of ground water. Below cold-based glacial ice, no recharge or discharge of ground water occurs. Both of these conditions result in the settling of shield brine and consequent freshening of near-surface water in areas of natural discharge blocked by permafrost. The presence of warm-based ice with basal melting creates a potential for ground-water recharge rates much larger than under present, ice-free conditions. Recharging basal meltwater can reach depths of a few kilometers in a few thousand years. The vast majority of recharged water is accommodated through storage in the volume of bedrock below the local area of recharge; regional (lateral) redistribution of recharged water by subsurface flow is minor over the duration of a glacial advance (~10 ka). During glacial retreat, the weight of the ice overlying a given surface location decreases, and significant upward flow of ground water may occur below the ice sheet due to pressure release, despite the continued potential for recharge of basal meltwater. Excess meltwater must exit from below the glacier through subglacial cavities and channels. Subsurface penetration of meltwater during glacial advance and up-flow during glacial retreat are greatest if the loading efficiency of the shield rock is low. The maximum rate of ground-water discharge occurs at the receding ice margin, and some discharge occurs below incursive post-glacial seas.

The simulation results suggest that vertical movement of deep shield brines induced by the next few glacial cycles should not increase the concentration of dissolved solids significantly above present-day levels. However, the concentration of dissolved solids should decrease significantly at depths of up to several kilometers during periods of glacial meltwater recharge. The meltwater may reside in the subsurface for periods exceeding 10 ka and may bring oxygenated conditions to an otherwise reducing chemical environment.

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Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Other Government Series
Glaciation and regional ground-water flow in the Fennoscandian Shield: Site 94
Series title:
SKI Report
Series number:
Year Published:
Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate
Publisher location:
Stockholm, Sweden
82 p.