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A new cycle of jökulhlaups at Russell Glacier, Kangerlussuaq, West Greenland

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Jökulhlaups in 2007 and 2008 from an ice-dammed lake at the northern margin of Russell Glacier, West Greenland, marked the onset of a renewed jökulhlaup cycle after 20 years of stability. We present a record of successive ice-dammed lake drainage events and associated ice-margin dynamics spanning 25 years. Robust calculations of lake volumes and peak discharges are made, based on intensive field surveys and utilizing high-spatial-resolution orthophotographs of the lake basin and ice margin. These data enable identification of controls on the behaviour of the ice-dammed lake and provide the first field-based examination of controls on jökulhlaup magnitude and frequency for this system. We find that Russell Glacier jökulhlaups have a much higher peak discharge than predicted by the Clague–Mathews relationship, which we attribute to an unusually short englacial/subglacial routeway and the presence of a thin ice dam that permits incomplete sealing of jökulhlaup conduits between lake drainage events. Additionally, we demonstrate that the passage of jökulhlaups through an interlinked system of proglacial bedrock basins produces significant attenuation of peak discharge downstream. We highlight that improved understanding of jökulhlaup dynamics requires accurate information about ice-dammed lake volume and ice-proximal jökulhlaup discharge.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: April 1, 2011

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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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