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Hydrologic modeling of a perennial firn aquifer in southeast Greenland

October 20, 2022

A conceptual model, based on field observations and assumed physics of a perennial firn aquifer near Helheim Glacier (southeast Greenland), is evaluated via steady-state 2-D simulation of liquid water flow and energy transport with phase change. The simulation approach allows natural representation of flow and energy advection and conduction that occur in vertical meltwater recharge through the unsaturated zone and in lateral flow within the saturated aquifer. Agreement between measured and simulated aquifer geometry, temperature, and recharge and discharge rates confirms that the conceptual field-data-based description of the aquifer is consistent with the primary physical processes of groundwater flow, energy transport and phase change. Factors that are found to control simulated aquifer configuration include surface temperature, meltwater recharge rate, residual total-water saturation and capillary fringe thickness. Simulation analyses indicate that the size of perennial firn aquifers depends primarily on recharge rates from surface snowmelt. Results also imply that the recent aquifer expansion, likely due to a warming climate, may eventually produce lakes on the ice-sheet surface that would affect the surface energy balance.

Publication Year 2023
Title Hydrologic modeling of a perennial firn aquifer in southeast Greenland
DOI 10.1017/jog.2022.88
Authors Olivia Miller, Clifford I. Voss, D. Kip Solomon, Clément Miège, Richard Forster, Nicholas Schmerr, Lynn Montgomery
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Journal of Glaciology
Index ID 70238860
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization WMA - Earth System Processes Division