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Eurasian ice-sheet dynamics and sensitivity to subglacial hydrology


Ice-stream dynamics are strongly controlled by processes taking place at the ice/bed interface where subglacial water both lubricates the base and saturates any existing, underlying sediment. Large parts of the former Eurasian ice sheet were underlain by thick sequences of soft, marine sediments and many areas are imprinted with geomorphological features indicative of fast flow and wet basal conditions. Here, we study the effect of subglacial water on past Eurasian ice-sheet dynamics by incorporating a thin-film model of basal water flow into the ice-sheet model SICOPOLIS and use it to better represent flow in temperate areas. The adjunction of subglacial hydrology results in a smaller ice-sheet building up over time and generally faster ice velocities, which consequently reduces the total area fraction of temperate basal ice and ice streaming areas. Minima in the hydraulic pressure potential, governing water flow, are used as indicators for potential locations of past subglacial lakes and a probability distribution of lake existence is presented based on estimated lake depth and longevity.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Corresponding author
Correspondence: Eythor Gudlaugsson <>
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