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Englacial phase changes and intergranular flow above subglacial lakes

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Glaciers are permeated by liquid veins that line the triple junctions between ice grains and act as conduits for material transport. The density difference between water and ice produces a hydraulic gradient that drives liquid flow down towards the glacier bed. We investigate how variations in this transport rate are manifest in the lower regions of a glacier that floats on a subglacial reservoir. When the temperature rises towards the glacier bed, the associated permeability increase leads to more rapid fluid transport; internal melting supplies the changing flow. A reduction in hydraulic gradient results from surface energy effects, and causes a decreasing transport rate near the base; hence, freezing occurs within the polycrystalline ice. For representative values of the heat flux, soluble impurity loading and grain-size, the downward flux peaks at approximately 1–100 mm a−1 several tens of centimeters above the glacier bed. Beneath this level, the effects of surface energy control the fluid transport and cause the flow to reverse directions, pulling liquid upwards into the polycrystalline ice so that the flow does not introduce glacial material into the underlying reservoir.

Document Type: Research Article


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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