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Seasonal variability in hydrologic-system response to intense rain events, Matanuska Glacier, Alaska, U.S.A.

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Two rain events at Matanuska Glacier illustrate how subglacial drainage system development and snowpack conditions affect hydrologic response at the terminus. On 21 and 22 September 1995, over 56 mm of rain fell in the basin during a period usually characterized by much drier conditions. This event caused an 8-fold increase in discharge and a 47-fold increase in suspended-sediment concentration. Peak suspended-sediment concentration exceeded 20 kg m−3, suggesting rapid evacuation of stored sediment. While water discharge returned to its pre-storm level nine days after the rain ceased, suspended-sediment concentrations took about 20 days to return to pre-storm levels. These observations suggest that the storm influx late in the melt season probably forced subglacial water into a more distributed system. In addition, subglacially transported sediments were supplemented to an unknown degree by the influx of storm-eroded sediments off hillslopes and from tributary drainage basins.

A storm on 6 and 7 June 1997, dropped 28 mm of rain on the basin demonstrating the effects of meltwater retention in the snowpack and englacial and subglacial storage early in the melt season. Streamflow before the storm event was increasing gradually owing to warming temperatures; however, discharge during the storm and the following week increased only slightly. Suspended-sediment concentrations increased only a small amount, suggesting the drainage system was not yet well developed, and much of the runoff occurred across the relatively clean surface of the glacier or through englacial channels.

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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