Go straight to content
Subglacial Water Impact on long term glacier Dynamics (SWItchDyn)

Subglacial Water Impact on long term glacier Dynamics (SWItchDyn)

The current warming over Greenland leads to an increase of the melt at the surface of the ice sheet. This means that a larger volume of water reaches the base of the glacier where it can greatly impact its dynamic. SWItchDyn will investigate the long-term impact of this increase in melt water volume on the dynamics of glaciers.

At the base of glaciers, an increase in water pressure triggers an acceleration of the ice flow. Water pressure is however not directly related to the volume of available water. This is due to the fact that the subglacial drainage system can adapt depending on the provided volume of water. Under a low water input, the drainage system will be able to drain only a small amount of water with a relatively high pressure. As the volume of water increases, the pressure increases until a threshold is reached where the drainage system becomes more efficient. This shift from an inefficient to an efficient drainage system leads to a decrease of the water pressure and a reduction of the glacier's velocity.

In order to better understand these interactions, SWItchDyn will combine two different approaches. A numerical model will be used to get a better understanding of the relations between the hydrological and ice-dynamical system. In parallel, observations of the surface velocities on glaciers will be analyzed to give a better idea of the current state of the subglacial drainage system. We will combine the results from these two different approaches to build a realistic simulation of the west coast of Greenland. This final simulation will provide an estimate of the effect of the melt water volume increase on the mass loss of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Project facts


Subglacial Water Impact on long term glacier Dynamics (SWItchDyn)




01.04.19 - 31.03.23

Total budget

7.945.000 NOK


Research Council of Norway (RCN)

Project members

Basile de Fleurian
Paul Lucas Halas
Hélène Seroussi
Jérémie Mouginot
Mathieu Morlighem