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Abstract

The most well known sub-glacial lake is probably Grímsvötn under Vatnajökul, Iceland, from where jökulhlaups regularly burst forth. It is created by thermal melting under the ice cap. The Antarctic Lake Vostok, on the other hand, is considered to be located over a region with normal geothermal heat transfer, where it can exist because the ice is so thick that its base is at the pressure melting point. This makes it a candidate for testing the captured ice shelf (CIS) hypothesis, which states that the motion of a totally confined ice shelf creates a hydrostatic seal in the form of an ice rim over the threshold. The CIS hypothesis may offer a source of water for the controversial Laurentian jökulhlaups inferred from field data, implicated in dramatic climatic changes. Here I show that Lake Vostok agrees with the hypothesis, and that it may be on the verge of a jökulhlaup, which could create an ice stream and regional downdraw. The result also implies that the lake may well be of pre-glacial origin, and that it may have experienced jökulhlaups during previous interglacials.