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Drainage system behaviour of a High-Arctic polythermal glacier

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Measurements made at John Evans Glacier, eastern Ellesmere Island, Nunavut, Canada in 1994 and 1996 provide new insight into the internal hydrology of polythermal glaciers. During the early part of each melt season, supraglacial waters enter the glacier via a crevasse field about 4 km from the terminus and are stored in a subglacial reservoir. Release of the water from the reservoir occurs initially via an artesian fountain on the glacier surface and by upwelling of waters through subglacial sediments at the terminus (event 1). Channelization of the subglacial waters then occurs and water is discharged as an outburst flood (event 2), which releases a considerably larger volume of water than event 1. Thus, drainage of the subglacial reservoir follows a cyclical pattern in which discharge oscillations increase in amplitude over time. The cycle may end with complete reservoir drainage. The total volume of water released was much greater in 1994 than in 1996, primarily because the 1994 melt season was longer and warmer than the 1996 season. Interannual differences in the form of the outflow hydrographs, and in the extent and timing of connections between the subglacial reservoir and marginal melt streams, are linked to variations in the size and rate of growth of the subglacial reservoir. This hydrological behaviour may have important implications for the dynamics of polythermal glaciers.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1999-01-01

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  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

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