Topographic and hydrological controls on Subglacial Lake Ellsworth, West Antarctica

David Vaughan, Andrés Rivera, John Woodward, Hugh Corr, Jens Wendt, Rodrigo Zamora

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30 Citations (Scopus)


Subglacial Lake Ellsworth (SLE) was identified using reconnaissance data collected in the 1970s, here we present more detailed surveys. SLE lies beneath 3.2 km of ice in a subglacial valley in West Antarctica. It has an area of only ∼ 18 km2, is dissimilar to the large tectonically-controlled lakes beneath East Antarctica and is a strong candidate for in situ exploration. Our analysis indicates that the ice above SLE is floating on a fluid whose density is 950-1013 kg m-3. This could indicate freshwater, but certainly precludes seawater, or high salt, acid, or clathrate content. The water in the lake is unlikely to be produced solely by local melt; it is more likely delivered via subglacial drainage. Our surveys show no identifiable hydrological barrier to outflow, meaning SLE is effectively full; new water entering the lake is likely balanced by outflow, which would drain into another lake that we have also identified.
Original languageEnglish
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number18
Publication statusPublished - 19 Sept 2007


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