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Debris in basal ice produced by glaciohydraulic supercooling is typically characterized by high proportions of silt. A prominent hypothesis for this silt‐dominance is that frazil ice growing in supercooled water preferentially traps silt from sediment‐laden water percolating through it. It has therefore been suggested that silt‐dominance may be diagnostic of glaciohydraulic supercooling. The aim of our work is to test this hypothesis that freezing sediment‐laden supercooled water necessarily produces ice dominated by silt. We do this by simulating two freezing processes under laboratory conditions: (1) percolation of sediment‐laden water through frazil ice; (2) turbulent supercooling and subsequent freezing of sediment‐laden water. In experiments repeated using different particle sizes (sand, silt and clay in individual experiments) both processes entrained sand most effectively and silt least effectively. In experiments using a sediment mixture dominated by medium to coarse silt, both processes produced ice facies dominated by particle sizes between fine sand and coarse silt. These results suggest that silt‐dominance should therefore not be expected for supercooled freeze‐on, and is not a reliable diagnostic signature for supercooling. The silt‐dominated character of basal ice types associated with supercooling may result from other controls such as a silt‐dominated sediment supply or subglacial water flow rates, rather than the freezing process.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Centre for Glaciology, Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Ceredigion, UK 2: School of Physical and Geographical Sciences, Keele University, Staffordshire, UK

Publication date: 2012-09-01

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