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Widespread distribution of supraglacial lakes around the margin of the East Antarctic ice sheet.

Stokes, C.R. and Sanderson, J.E. and Miles, B.W.J. and Jamieson, S.S.R. and Leeson, A.A. (2019) 'Widespread distribution of supraglacial lakes around the margin of the East Antarctic ice sheet.', Scientific reports., 9 . p. 13823.


Supraglacial lakes are important to ice sheet mass balance because their development and drainage has been linked to changes in ice flow velocity and ice shelf disintegration. However, little is known about their distribution on the world’s largest ice sheet in East Antarctica. Here, we use ~5 million km2 of high-resolution satellite imagery to identify >65,000 lakes (>1,300 km2) that formed around the peak of the melt season in January 2017. Lakes occur in most marginal areas where they typically develop at low elevations (<100 m) and on low surface slopes (<1°), but they can exist 500 km inland and at elevations >1500 m. We find that lakes often cluster a few kilometres down-ice from grounding lines and ~60% (>80% by area) develop on ice shelves, including some potentially vulnerable to collapse driven by lake-induced hydro-fracturing. This suggests that parts of the ice sheet may be highly sensitive to climate warming.

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Publisher statement:This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article’s Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article’s Creative Commons license and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this license, visit © Te Author(s) 2019
Date accepted:10 September 2019
Date deposited:11 September 2019
Date of first online publication:25 September 2019
Date first made open access:25 September 2019

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