Greenland subglacial lakes detected by radar

Steven J. Palmer*, Julian A. Dowdeswell, Poul Christoffersen, Duncan A. Young, Donald D. Blankenship, Jamin S. Greenbaum, Toby Benham, Jonathan Bamber, Martin J. Siegert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)

46 Citations (Scopus)


Subglacial lakes are an established and important component of the basal hydrological system of the Antarctic ice sheets, but none have been reported from Greenland. Here we present airborne radio echo sounder (RES) measurements that provide the first clear evidence for the existence of subglacial lakes in Greenland. Two lakes, with areas similar to 8 and similar to 10km(2), are found in the northwest sector of the ice sheet, similar to 40km from the ice margin, and below 757 and 809m of ice, respectively. The setting of the Greenland lakes differs from those of Antarctic subglacial lakes, being beneath relatively thin and cold ice, pointing to a fundamental difference in their nature and genesis. Possibilities that the lakes consist of either ancient saline water in a closed system or are part of a fresh, modern open hydrological system are discussed, with the latter interpretation considered more likely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6154-6159
Number of pages6
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number23
Publication statusPublished - 16 Dec 2013


  • Greenland ice sheet
  • subglacial lakes
  • airborne radar


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