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Ice flow across a warm-based/cold-based transition at a glacier margin

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Where polythermal glaciers have frozen margins that buttress otherwise temperate-based sliding ice, longitudinal compression can strongly influence ice-flow trajectory, and consequently sediment transport paths. Past efforts to model flow in the vicinity of a basal thermal transition (BTT) have generally relied on simplified boundary conditions or rheological idealizations, making these model results difficult to apply to real glacier termini. Herein, we present results of numerical simulations using a power-law rheology and with boundary conditions that better represent the frozen margin. Model results indicate that a transition to a non-sliding frozen margin causes a decline in surface velocity made possible by upward ice flow, implying either enhanced ablation for steady-state simulations or the formation of a surface bulge. Permitting ice loss by ablation combined with numerical smoothing of the basal slip transition subdues basal stress concentrations and thereby inhibits development of structural discontinuities such as thrust faults. Upward ice flow is accommodated by vertical extension up-glacier of the BTT. This strain regime can potentially account for key structural features in polythermal glacier termini without appealing to thrusting.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: October 1, 2009

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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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