Michael Studinger, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
Lake Vostok lies in the heart of the Antarctic continent hidden beneath 4 kilometers of ice (see map). As big as Lake Ontario in North America, Lake Vostok is one of the world's biggest freshwater lakes. Lake Vostok has been covered by the vast Antarctic ice sheet for up to 25 million years. The lake was named for the Russian research station that sits above its southern tip - a place where in 1983 the temperature fell below -129°F (-89°C), the coldest ever recorded temperature on Earth. More than 145 lakes have been identified beneath the thick Antarctic ice sheet. Most of these lakes, covered between 3-4 kilometers of ice, are several kilometers long (see map). One of these lakes, Lake Vostok (left), is an order of magnitude larger than all other known lakes (slide show).
The Discovery of Subglacial Lake Vostok
Microbial Life in Ice
Subglacial Lake Vostok is the closest terrestrial analogue to Europa, the ice covered Jovian moon, and to a Neoproterozoic snowball Earth. The 4-kilometer-thick ice sheet goes afloat as it crosses the lake, just as ice sheets become floating ice shelves at the grounding line. The subglacial environment represents one of the most oligotrophic environments on Earth, an environment with low nutrient levels and low standing stocks of viable organisms. If life thrives in these environments it may have to depend on alternative energy sources and survival strategies. A flash animation illustrates the basal freezing process and the flow of the ice sheet over the lake: (Flash animation of subglacial Lake Vostok).
Aerogeophysical Survey December 2000 - January 2001
Published Papers related to Subglacial Lakes:
Bell, R.E., Studinger, M., Shuman, C.A., Fahnestock, M., Joughin, I., Large subglacial lakes in East Antarctica at the onset of fast-flowing ice streams, Nature, Vol. 445, 904-907, doi:10.1038/nature05554, 2007.
Christner, B.C., George Royston-Bishop, Christine M. Foreman, Brianna R. Arnold Martyn Tranter, Kathleen. A. Welch, W. Berry Lyons, Alexandre I. Tsapin, M. Studinger, and John C. Priscu, Limnological conditions in subglacial Lake Vostok, Antarctica, Limnology and Oceanography, Vol 61, No 6, p 2485-2501, 2006, e-link.
Bell, R.E., Studinger M., Fahnestock, M.A., and Shuman, C.A., Tectonically controlled subglacial lakes on the flanks of the Gamburtsev Subglacial Mountains, East Antarctica, Geophys. Res. Lett., 33, L02504, doi:10.1029/2005GL025207, 2006.
Tikku, A.A., Bell, R.E., Studinger, M., Clarke, G.K.C., Tabacco, I., and Ferraccioli, F., The influx of meltwater to subglacial Lake Concordia, East Antarctica, Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 51 No. 172, p 96-104, e-link, 2005.
Bell, R.E., M. Studinger, A. Tikku, J.D. Castello, Ancient Ice and Subglacial Lake Environments: Lake Vostok as an Example, In Life in Ancient Ice, edited by J.D. Castello, and S.O. Rogers, Princeton University Press, p 251-267, ISBN: 0-691-07475-5, 2005.
Tikku, A.A., Bell, R.E., Studinger, M., Clarke, G.K.C., Ice flow over Lake Vostok, East Antarctica inferred by structure tracking, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 227, 249-261, doi:10.1016/j.epsl.2004.09.021, 2004.
Leonard, K., Bell, R.E., Studinger, M., and Tremblay, B., Anomalous accumulation rates in the Vostok ice core from ice flow over Lake Vostok, Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, No. 24, L24602, doi:10.1029/2004GL021102, 2004.
Studinger, M., Bell, R.E., and Tikku A.A., Estimating the depth and shape of subglacial Lake Vostok’s water cavity from aerogravity data, Geophys. Res. Lett., 31, L12401, doi:10.1029/2004GL019801, 2004.
Studinger, M., Karner,G.D, Bell, R.E., Levin, V., Tikku, A.A., Raymond, C.A., Geophysical Models for the Tectonic Framework of the Lake Vostok Region, East Antarctica, Earth Planet Sci. Lett., 216, 663-677, doi:10.1016/S0012-821X(03)00548-X, 2003.
Studinger, M., R.E. Bell, G.D. Karner, A.A. Tikku, J.W. Holt, D.L. Morse, T.G. Richter, S.D. Kempf, M.E. Peters, D.D. Blankenship, R.E. Sweeney, and V.L. Rystrom. Ice cover, landscape setting, and geological framework of Lake Vostok, East Antarctica, Earth Planet. Sci. Lett., 205(3-4), 195-210, doi:10.1016/S0012-821X(02)01041-5, 2003.
Bell, R.E., M. Studinger, A.A. Tikku, G.K.C. Clarke, M.M. Gutner, and C. Meertens, Origin and fate of Lake Vostok water frozen to the base of the East Antarctic ice sheet, Nature, 417, 307-310, doi:10.1038/416307a, 2002.