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Observations of englacial water passages: a fracture-dominated system

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Abstract:

To test models of the hydraulics and geometry of englacial conduits, 48 holes (3900 m of ice) were drilled into Storglaciaren, Sweden, in search of conduits. About 79% of the holes intersected a hydraulically connected englacial feature. A video camera was used to examine the features and measure local water-flow rates. Because of the extremely clear ice that surrounded most features, their geometry could not be discerned. Of the remaining features, 80% (36) were fracture-like, 16% (6) were of complex geometry, and 4% (2) exhibited a conduit-like geometry. The fracture-like features exhibited steep plunges (∼70°), narrow openings (∼40 mm) and slow water-flow speeds (∼10 mm s−1). We argue that these fracture-like features are indeed englacial fractures of unknown origin. The depth to fractures intersection varied from near the glacier surface to 96% of local ice depth, with a maximum depth of 131 m. Few hydraulically connected fractures exhibited water motion, indicating some preferential flow pathways exist. We found one 'traditional' englacial conduit after an intentional search in a field of moulins. These results suggest that englacial water flow is conveyed through a ubiquitous network of fractures and that conduits are relatively rare.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756405781813762

Publication date: January 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • 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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