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Numerical simulation of three-dimensional velocity fields in pressurized and non-pressurized Nye channels

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Channels incised into bedrock, or Nye channels, often form an important component of subglacial drainage at temperate glaciers, and their structure exerts control over patterns and rates of (a) channel erosion, (b) water flow-velocity and (c) water pressure. The latter, in turn, exerts a strong control over basal traction and, thus, ice dynamics. In order to investigate these controls, it is necessary to quantify detailed flow processes in subglacial Nye channels. However, it is effectively impossible to acquire such measurements from fully pressurized, subglacial channels. To solve this problem, we here apply a three-dimensional, finite-volume solution of the Reynolds averaged Navier-Stokes (RANS) equations with a one-equation mixing-length turbulence closure to simulate flow in a 3 m long section of an active Nye channel located in the immediate foreground of Glacier de Tsanfleuron, Switzerland. Numerical model output permits high-resolution visualization of water flow through the channel reach, and enables evaluation of the experimental manipulation of the pressure field adopted across the overlying ice lid. This yields an increased theoretical understanding of the hydraulic behaviour of Nye channels, and, in the future, of their effect on glacier drainage, geomorphology and ice dynamics.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2003

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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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