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Subsurface hydrology of an overdeepened cirque glacier

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To investigate the subsurface hydrological characteristics of an overdeepened cirque glacier, nine boreholes were drilled to the bed of West Washmawapta Glacier, British Columbia, Canada, in summer 2007. All holes were surveyed with a video camera, and four were subsequently instrumented with a combination of pressure transducers, thermistors and conductivity sensors. Diurnal pressure and temperature records indicate the presence of a hydraulically connected subglacial drainage system towards the northern glacier margin. Hydraulic jacking in the overdeepening, controlled by changing water volume in the marginal zone, potentially impacts basal ice flow and erosion. The presence of a sediment layer underlying the glacier also likely impacts hydrology and ice dynamics. Influx of warm groundwater into the basal system raises subglacial water temperatures above the pressure-melting point (pmp) and induces diurnal water temperature fluctuations of as much as 0.8°C; water temperatures above the pmp could affect basal melt rates and the development of subglacial drainage systems. These observations suggest that the characteristics of the subglacial drainage system substantially affect patterns of flow and erosion by this small cirque glacier.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: December 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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