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A Subglacial Boundary-layer Regelation Mechanism

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Heat input to basal ice at subglacial low-pressure regions, such as exist on the lee side of bed bumps including regions of ice-bed separation, is shown to melt basal ice internally in a narrow boundary layer at most centimeters thick. Before ice at the ice-bed interface can begin to melt, the heat input Q must exceed a critical value Q*. Q* increases rapidly with an increase in the difference ΔΡ between the nominal (global) overburden pressure and the magnitude of the (local) normal stress acting between the ice and bed or ice and water pocket. Because of the non-linear nature of the flow law, the thickness of the boundary layer decreases rapidly with increasing ΔΡ. The ice in the boundary layer is likely to be soft with a high water content. Under certain conditions, a regelation cycle may exist between the boundary layer and the water in a subglacial cavity. The boundary layer is sufficiently narrow that the processes can reach steady state while ice traverses subglacial low-pressure regions of length the order of 0.01‐0.1 m. The regelation phenomenon may preserve or aid the formation of narrow debris-rich ice layers at the base of temperate glaciers.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 1990-01-01

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.

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