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Patterning mechanisms in subglacial carbonate dissolution and deposition

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Deglaciated bedrock surfaces in limestone areas often exhibit extensive patterning by solutional furrows and carbonate deposits that occur in close association with undulations in the bed topography. These features clearly result from subglacial dissolution and precipitation of calcite on the bed - induced, for instance, by melting and freezing in a regelation water film - but little is known about the observed morphology. In particular, it is intriguing that (i) the solutional furrows, whose formation requires explanation, are collectively organized into arcuate patterns, with characteristic spacing, and (ii) a fluted or ''spiculed'' surface texture is ubiquitous on the calcite deposits. Herein, we propose specific mechanisms for such patterning based on a theory where chemical processes in the water film are coupled to regelation physics. Solutional furrows reflect locally enhanced dissolu- tion along stoss surfaces, where CO2 -rich bubbles advected in the ice from up-glacier come into contact with the bed. The bubbles form as CO2 is exsolved from freezing film water at the lee of bed bumps. The flutings on the deposit are inherently the manifestation of a spatial instability at the interface where calcite precipitation occurs. Complex interactions underlie some of the striking glacier-bed features shaped by subglacial chemical processes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2002

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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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