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Subglacial lakes may influence ice flow

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11:16am, February 26, 2007

From San Francisco, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

The flow of water into and out of massive, ice-covered lakes in Antarctica may influence the speed at which overlying glaciers move toward the sea, a new study suggests.

Some of the speediest glaciers in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet are hundreds of kilometers long, 50 km wide, and up to 2 km thick, says Robert Bindschadler, a glaciologist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. Many of the continent's ice streams nourish ice shelves, which are country-size ledges of floating ice still attached to the land.

When Bindschadler and his colleagues scrutinized satellite observations of the Whillans and Mercer ice streams between 2003 and 2006, they noted significant changes in the altitude of 14 regions within those features. The researchers suggest that the areas cover subglacial lakes and attribute the altitude fluctuations to water flowing among those

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