Lakes beneath the ice sheet: The occurrence, analysis, and future exploration of Lake Vostok and other Antarctic subglacial lakes
Siegert, M. J.
Airborne geophysics has been used to identify more than 100 lakes beneath the ice sheets of Antarctica. The largest, Lake Vostok, is more than 250 km in length and 1 km deep. Subglacial lakes occur because the ice base is kept warm by geothermal heating, and generated meltwater collects in topographic hollows. For lake water to be in equilibrium with the ice sheet, its roof must slope ten times more than the ice sheet surface. This slope causes differential temperatures and melting/freezing rates across the lake ceiling, which excites water circulation. The exploration of subglacial lakes has two goals: to find and understand the life that may inhabit these unique environments and to measure the climate records that occur in sediments on lake floors. The technological developments required for in situ measurements mean, however, that direct studies of subglacial lakes may take several years to happen.