EGU22-8693, updated on 28 Mar 2022
EGU General Assembly 2022
© Author(s) 2022. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

On the role of crustal deflection in the hydraulic-mechanical simulation of sedimentary basins during glacial cycles

Christian Silbermann1, Dominik Kern1, Rebekka Steffen2, Holger Steffen2, Victor Bense3, and Thomas Nagel1
Christian Silbermann et al.
  • 1TU BA Freiberg, Institute of Geotechnics, Geosciences, Geoengineering and Mining, Germany
  • 2Lantmäteriet, Geodetic Infrastructure, Sweden
  • 3Wageningen University, Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Department of Environmental Sciences, Netherlands

While guidelines for the location and licensing of a deep geological repository (DGR) for high-level radioactive waste depend both on national government policies and international regulations, it is mandatory to select a site where the hydrogeological setting provides sufficiently safe natural conditions for long-term waste isolation from groundwater flow. Therefore, safety assessments of a suitable location of a DGR require the evaluation of future external events and processes that may affect its long-term evolution.
Here, glaciation cycles are of special importance: Ice sheets evoke crustal deflections  (including deformation), and impose pronounced hydraulic heads, both of which change the large-scale hydrogeological conditions. To properly assess the present and future conditions of a DGR site, its evolution in the past should be understood. For this, a sedimentary basin [3] is considered here as a large-scale hydrogeological benchmark. The evolution during one glacial cycle is simulated using the open-source multi-field finite element code OpenGeoSys. The hydraulic-mechanical impact of the glacial loading is taken into account using appropriate time-dependent boundary conditions. For comparison with a previously published study [3], the same (heuristic) displacement field is prescribed and the groundwater evolution is regarded. Then, a more realistic displacement field obtained from large-scale GIA simulations [1,2] is prescribed. Using a one-sided mechanical-hydraulic coupling with a staggered solution scheme it is possible to consider not only the hydraulic head from the glacier and the crustal deflection but also the crustal compression. Especially in regions at the margin of the glacier this is could have an impact on the hydraulic behavior at the depth of a DGR.

References & Funding

This research is funded by the Federal Office for the Safety of Nuclear Waste Management under Grant No. 4719F10402 (AREHS project)

[1] Patrick Wu. “Using commercial finite element packages for the study ofearth deformations, sea levels and the state of stress”. In: Geophysical Journal International 158.2 (2004), pp. 401–408.

[2] G. Spada et al. “A benchmark study for glacial isostatic adjustment codes”. In: Geophysical Journal International 185.1 (2011), pp. 106–132.

[3] V.F. Bense and M.A. Person. “Transient hydrodynamics within intercratonic sedimentary basins during glacial cycles”. In: Journal of Geophysical Research: Earth Surface 113.F4 (2008).

How to cite: Silbermann, C., Kern, D., Steffen, R., Steffen, H., Bense, V., and Nagel, T.: On the role of crustal deflection in the hydraulic-mechanical simulation of sedimentary basins during glacial cycles, EGU General Assembly 2022, Vienna, Austria, 23–27 May 2022, EGU22-8693,, 2022.