Basal Drainage System Response to Increasing Surface Melt on the Greenland Ice Sheet

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Science  16 Aug 2013:
Vol. 341, Issue 6147, pp. 777-779
DOI: 10.1126/science.1235905

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Draining Through Ice

Water formed by surface melting of the Greenland Ice Sheet is transferred rapidly to the underlying bedrock, but how the water is then dispersed is less clear. This question is important because how the ice-rock interface is lubricated affects how fast the ice sheet moves. Existing conceptual models are based on observations of mountain glaciers, but Meierbachtol et al. (p. 777; see the Perspective by Lüthi) now show that those ideas may not be applicable to the Greenland Ice Sheet. Measuring water pressures in a transect of 23 boreholes revealed that drainage structures differ between the edge, where large melt channels form, and further inland, where more distributed pathways are found.