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Changes in geometry and subglacial drainage derived from digital elevation models: Unteraargletscher, Switzerland, 1927–97

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Digital elevation models of the bed and surface of Unteraargletscher, Switzerland, are used to reconstruct the theoretical pattern of basal water drainage for the years 1927, 1947, 1961 and 1997, during which period the glacier was thinning and receding. The theoretical drainage pattern for 1997 compares well, in a broad sense, with the locations of active moulins and the hydraulic connection status of boreholes drilled to the glacier bed. Changes in the basal water-flow pattern over the period 1927–97 that are revealed by the theoretical reconstructions of the subglacial drainage system structure are likely to have resulted from changes in glacier geometry. Concurrent with the retreat and thinning of the glacier, the height of medial moraines increased, probably due to the insulating effect of the debris cover reducing the melt of the underlying ice. This increase of moraine heights has led to the formation of hydraulic barriers at the glacier bed such that water flow has become channelized beneath the ice along drainage axes that parallel the course of the medial moraines on the glacier surface.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-01-01

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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.

    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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