If you have seen the antarctic ocean on the map, you must have noticed that a major portion of these oceans lies under the subglacial lakes. Over the ocean lies a thick layer of ice, which is the frozen version of the liquid. It contains several kilometers of ice. Another specialty of the subglacial lakes is that these are interconnected, which makes the water flows from one lake to another. The surprising fact is that some of these subglacial lakes have been separated from the outside world for up to 35 million years. The question is, how do these subglacial lakes affect the antarctic ocean, and what impact do they have on the ice flow.
First things first, antarctic subglacial lakes are known for changing the structure and flow of the ice, which overlain the antarctic ocean. The lake drains rapidly and also lubricates the sea bed, which makes it possible for the ice stream to flow quite rapidly. Even though the lakes are covered with up to 4000 meters of thick ice, you could easily observe the fluctuations on the ice surface. If the recent research is to be believed, there are over 379 lakes already discovered in Antarctica, and we are expecting to find more of these in the coming years.
GIS and Subglacial Lakes
GIS and satellite-based images have helped scientists identify the total ice bed covering the antarctic ocean, the number of subglacial lakes present in the area, and the thickness of the ice. Basically, the flat areas on the ice surface are believed to have subglacial lakes beneath them. Another technology that is commonly used for discovering the subglacial lakes beneath the thick layer of ice is airborne radio-echo sounding. As mentioned earlier, many of these lakes have been identified so far, among which the largest one covering a major portion of the sea is the Lake Vostok in East Antarctica.
This one is said to have 50 kilometers of depth and is several hundred meters deep, and has a length of 240 kilometers. This also happens to be the subglacial lake that has been sampled. Researchers have used GIS and geospatial technology to understand the biology and chemistry of the lake effectively. It is important for researchers to identify the structure of these subglacial lakes beneath the flat regions in the Antarctic ocean. Not only because it gives you a clear picture of the antarctic ocean, but it tells the ice velocity.
With the help of geographic information technology, researchers collect the 3D pictures of the antarctic ocean and subglacial lakes, analyze the lakes, check the thickness of the ice, and perform extensive research on the ocean to get a better understanding of the lake, as well as, the surrounding area as mentioned before the subglacial lakes located beneath the ocean affect the ice melting velocity. That’s because the changes in the subglacial lake can result in changes in the ice melting structure and the speed at which ice flows.