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The origin of channels on lower Taylor Glacier, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, and their implication for water runoff

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Well-developed surface channels on Taylor Glacier, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica, begin as medial moraines incised as shallow, narrow surface depressions, and retain this geometry for tens of km. Over a distance of 1100 m, the channel geometry dramatically changes, reaching depths >20 m and widths >100 m. After rapidly enlarging, the channels appear to evolve toward a new equilibrium geometry. Compared to the glacier surface, the air temperature in the channels is warmer by ∼1.7°C, wind speed is reduced by ∼2.4 m s−1 and net shortwave radiation is greater by ∼14 W m−2. The microclimate in the channel shifts the energy balance towards enhanced melt. Field evidence and energy-balance modeling indicate ablation in the deep channels is ∼4.5 times greater than the local horizontal glacier surface and that melt accounts for 99% of the summer ablation, compared to 75% on the adjacent horizontal glacier surface. Melt in these channels supplies 65% of the unaccounted water discharge into the neighboring lake. In large part, the channels generate the water they carry, rather than merely route water generated elsewhere.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2005

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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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