Estimating the Salinity of Subglacial Lakes From Existing Aerogeophysical Data
This award supports a project to estimate the salinity of subglacial Lake Vostok, Lake Concordia and the 90 deg.E lake using existing airborne ice-penetrating radar and laser altimeter data. These lakes have been selected because of the availability of modern aerogeophysical data and because they are large enough for the floating ice to be unaffected by boundary stresses near the grounding lines. The proposed approach is based on the assumption that the ice sheet above large subglacial lakes is in hydrostatic equilibrium and the density and subsequently salinity of the lake's water can be estimated from the (linear) relationship between ice surface elevation and ice thickness of the floating ice. The goal of the proposed work is to estimate the salinity of Lake Vostok and determine spatial changes and to compare the salinity estimates of 3 large subglacial lakes in East Antarctica. The intellectual merits of the project are that this work will contribute to the knowledge of the physical and chemical processes operating within subglacial lake environments. Due to the inaccessibility of subglacial lakes numerical modeling of the water circulation is currently the only way forward to develop a conceptual understanding of the circulation and melting and freezing regimes in subglacial lakes. Numerical experiments show that the salinity of the lake's water is a crucial input parameter for the 3-D fluid dynamic models. Improved numerical models will contribute to our knowledge of water circulation in subglacial lakes, its effects on water and heat budgets, stratification, melting and freezing, and the conditions that support life in such extreme environments. The broader impacts of the project are that subglacial lakes have captured the interest of many people, scientists and laymen. The national and international press frequently reports about the research of the Principal Investigator. His Lake Vostok illustrations have been used in math and earth science text books. Lake Vostok will be used for education and outreach in the Earth2Class project. Earth2Class is a highly successful science/math/technology learning resource for K-12 students, teachers, and administrators in the New York metropolitan area. Earth2Class is created through collaboration by research scientists at the Lamont- Doherty Earth Observatory; curriculum and educational technology specialists from Teachers College, Columbia University; and classroom teachers in the New York metropolitan area.
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