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Tracer experiments and borehole observations in the overdeepening of Aletschgletscher, Switzerland

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The subglacial drainage in a pronounced overdeepening of Grosser Aletschgletscher, Switzerland was investigated by borehole water-level observations and dye-tracer injections. In August 1990 and 1991, tracer was injected at the bottom of a borehole (depth 904 m and 710 m, respectively), and simultaneously in a nearby moulin. The moulin and borehole injections identified two different flow systems coexisting within the overdeepening. The moulin injection yielded short-lived, highly peaked break-through curves with high velocities, indicating a hydraulically efficient channelized system. The borehole-tracer return occurred in broad multiple peaks characterized by a striking diurnal periodicity and, in general, correlated inversely with discharge. Water level in the borehole experienced high diurnal variations in phase with discharge at the snout indicating "closed channel flow" over large parts of the glacier. We infer that the boreholes drained subglacially and were connected to a drainage system with significant long-term storage capacity. Release of labelled water was triggered by daily water-pressure cycles.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1999

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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.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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