Internal gravity waves generated by subglacial discharge: implications for tidewater glacier melt

This is a Preprint and has not been peer reviewed. This is version 1 of this Preprint.


Download Preprint


Jesse M Cusack, Rebecca H Jackson, Jonathan D Nash, Eric Skyllingstad, Erin C Pettit, David A Sutherland, Roman J Motyka, Jason M Amundson


Submarine melting has been implicated in the accelerated retreat of marine-terminating glaciers globally. Energetic ocean flows, such as subglacial discharge plumes, are known to enhance submarine melting in their immediate vicinity. Using observations and a large eddy simulation, we demonstrate that discharge plumes emit high-frequency internal gravity waves that propagate along glacier termini and transfer energy to distant regions of the terminus. Our analysis of wave characteristics and their correlation with subglacial discharge forcing suggest that they derive their energy from turbulent motions within the discharge plume and its surface outflow. Accounting for the near-terminus velocities associated with these waves increases predicted melt rates by up to 70%. This may help to explain known discrepancies between observed melt rates and theoretical predictions. Because the dynamical ingredients -- a buoyant plume rising through a stratified ocean -- are common to many tidewater glacier systems, such internal waves are likely to be widespread.



Climate, Oceanography


ice-ocean, internal wave, Glacier, Oceanography, submarine melt


Published: 2023-02-03 16:17

Last Updated: 2023-02-04 00:17


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

Add a Comment

You must log in to post a comment.


There are no comments or no comments have been made public for this article.