Hydrologic properties of a highly permeable firn aquifer in the Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica

Geophysical Research Letters
By: , and 

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Abstract

We present measurements of the density, hydraulic conductivity, and specific discharge of a widespread firn aquifer in Antarctica, within the Wilkins Ice Shelf. At the field site, the aquifer is 16.2 m thick, starting at 13.4 m from the snow surface and transitioning from water‐saturated firn to ice at 29.6 m. Hydraulic conductivity derived from slug tests show a geometric mean value of 1.4 ± 1.2 × 10−4 m s−1, equivalent to permeability of 2.6 ± 2.2 × 10−11 m2. A borehole dilution test indicates an average specific discharge value of 1.9 ± 2.8 × 10−6 m s−1. Ground‐penetrating radar profiles and a groundwater flow model show the aquifer is draining laterally into a large nearby rift. Our findings indicate that the firn aquifer in the vicinity of the field site is likely not in a steady state and its presence likely contributed to past ice shelf instability.

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Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Hydrologic properties of a highly permeable firn aquifer in the Wilkins Ice Shelf, Antarctica
Series title Geophysical Research Letters
DOI 10.1029/2020GL089552
Volume 47
Year Published 2020
Language English
Publisher Wiley
Contributing office(s) Utah Water Science Center
Description e2020GL089552, 10 p.
Other Geospatial Antarctica, Wilkins Ice Sheet
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