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Englacial water distribution in a temperate glacier from surface and borehole radar velocity analysis

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We have obtained common offset, common midpoint (CMP) and borehole vertical (VRP) ground-penetrating radar profiles close to the margin of Fallj√∂kull, a small, steep temperate valley glacier situated in southeast Iceland. Velocity analysis of CMP and VRP surveys provided a four-layered velocity model. This model was verified by comparison between the depths of englacial reflectors and water channels seen in borehole video, and from the depths of boreholes drilled to the bed. In the absence of sediment within the glacier ice, radar velocity is inversely proportional to water content. Using mixture models developed by Paren and Looyenga, the variation of water content with depth was determined from the radar velocity profile. At the glacier surface the calculated water content is 0.23−0.34% (velocity 0.166 m ns−1), which rises sharply to 3.0−4.1% (velocity 0.149 m ns−1) at 28 m depth, interpreted to be the level of the piezometric surface. Below the piezometric surface the water content drops slowly to 2.4−3.3% (velocity 0.152 m ns−1) until ∼102 m depth where it falls to 0.09−0.14% (velocity 0.167 m ns−1). The water content of the ice then remains low to the glacier bed at about 112 m. These results suggest storage of a substantial volume of water within the glacier ice, which has significant implications for glacier hydrology, ice rheology and interpretations of both radar and seismic surveys.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2000

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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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