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Basal Temperatures in Polar Ice Sheets: A Qualitative Review

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Roger LeB. Hooke*
Department of Geology and Geophysics, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455 USA


In recent years glacial geologists have become increasingly interested in the thermal regime at the bases of polar ice sheets, and have attempted to interpret certain Pleistocene glacial features in terms of this thermal regime. This effort has suffered from a lack of a reasonably comprehensive but qualitative review of factors controlling the temperature at the base of a polar glacier; this paper attempts to fill this void. Using the Laurentide Ice Sheet as an example, it is shown that under cold climatic conditions basal melting is likely to occur only beneath the lower part of the ablation area. If the climate is somewhat warmer, or if the accumulation rate is sufficiently low, basal melting may also occur beneath the accumulation area. The zone of greatest basal melt-water production is probably beneath the lower part of the ablation area.

Research Article
University of Washington

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