Skip to main content Accessibility help

Borehole video observation of englacial and basal ice conditions in a temperate valley glacier

  • Luke Copland (a1), Jon Harbor (a1) and Martin Sharp (a2)


As part of a study of ice dynamics, 25 boreholes were drilled with high-pressure hot water to the base of Haut Glacier d’Arolla, Switzerland. The boreholes were distributed across a half-section of the glacier, with closest spacing towards the glacier margin. The interior structure of the glacier was investigated by lowering a miniature color video camera down 11 boreholes, and the glacier bed was observed in 3 boreholes.

The video showed distinct changes in ice conditions with depth in the glacier, including ice foliations and changes in ice-bubble content and color. A basal ice layer of varying thickness was recorded in two of the three boreholes in which the glacier bed was observed. This basal ice layer was characterized by relatively sediment-rich, coarse-clear ice, and was thickest in a zone of high water-pressure fluctuations. The available evidence suggests that localized freezing at the glacier bed caused by variations in water pressure is the primary source of this basal ice layer. The near-surface transition between finegrained and coarse-bubbly ice, and between coarse-bubbly and coarse-clear ice, appeared to correlate with the depths of influence of diurnal and annual cold waves, respectively. Two types of ice foliation were identified, consisting of distinct planar coarse-clear ice, or more pervasive coarse-bubbly or fine-grained ice. An origin from crevasse closure or the transposition of sedimentary stratification provides the most likely explanation for these.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Borehole video observation of englacial and basal ice conditions in a temperate valley glacier
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Borehole video observation of englacial and basal ice conditions in a temperate valley glacier
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Borehole video observation of englacial and basal ice conditions in a temperate valley glacier
      Available formats



Hide All
Allen, C. R., Kamb, W. B., Meier, M. F. and Sharp, R. P.. 1960. Structure of the lower Blue Glacier, Washington. J. Geol., 68(6), 601625.
Anderson, R. S., Hallet, B., Walder, J. and Aubrey, B. F.. 1982. Observations in a cavity beneath Grinnell Glacier. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 7(1), 6370.
Boulton, G. S. 1970. On the origin and transport of englacial debris in Svalbard glaciers. J. Glaciol., 9(56), 213229.
Boulton, G. S. 1972. The role of thermal regime in glacial sedimentation. In Price, R. J. and Sugden, D. E., camps. Polar geomorphology. London, Institute of British Geographers, 119.
Boulton, G. S. 1977. Guide to Breiðamerkurjökull, Iceland. INQUA, Commission on Lithology and Genesis of Quaternary Deposits.
Boulton, G. S., Morris, E. M., Armstrong, A. A. and Thomas, A.. 1979. Direct measurement of stress at the base of a glacier. J. Glaciol., 22(86), 324.
Copland, L., Harbor, J., Minner, M. and Sharp, M.. 1997. The use of borehole inclinometry in determining basal sliding and internal deformation at Haut Glacier d’Arolla, Switzerland. Ann. Glaciol., 24 (see paper in this volume).
Copland, L., Harbor, J., Gordon, S. and Sharp, M.. In press. The use of borehole video in investigating the hydrology of a temperate glacier. Hydrol. Processes.
Drewry, D. 1986. Glacial geologic processes. London, Edward Arnold.
Engelhardt, H. F., Harrison, W. D. and Kamb, R.. 1978. Basal sliding and conditions at the glacier bed as revealed by bore-hole photography. J. Glaciol, 20(84), 469508.
Goodman, D. J., King, G. C. P., Millar, D. H. M. and Robin, G. de Q.. 1979. Pressure-melting effects in basal ice of temperate glaciers: laboratory Studies and field observations under Glacier d’Argenti7re. J. Glaciol., 23(89), 259272.
Hagen, J. O., Wold, E., Licstøl, O., Østrem, G. and Sollid, J. L.. 1983. Subglacial processes at Bondhusbreen, Norway: preliminary results. Ann. Glaciol., 4, 9198.
Hambrey, M. J. 1976. Structure of the glacier Charles Rabots Bre, Norway. Geol. Soc. Am. Bull., 87(11), 1629–1637.
Hambrey, M. J. and Müller, F.. 1978. Structures and ice deformation in the White Glacier, Axel Heiberg Island, Northwest Territories, Canada. J. Glaciol., 20(82), 4166.
Harper, J. T. and Humphrey, N. F.. 1995. Borehole video analysis of a temperate glacier’s englacial and subglacial structure: implications for glacier flow models. Geology, 23(10), 901904.
Harrison, W. D. and Kamb, B.. 1973. Glacier bore-hole photography. J. Glaciol., 12(64), 129137.
Hart, J. K. 1995. An investigation of the deforming layer/debris-rich basal-ice continuum, illustrated from three Alaskan glaciers. J. Glaciol., 41(139), 619633.
Holdsworth, G. 1969. Primary transverse crevasses. J. Glaciol., 8(52), 107129.
Hubbard, B. P. 1992. Basal ice facies and their formation in the western Alps. (Ph.D. thesis. University of Cambridge.)
Hubbard, B. and Sharp, M.. 1989. Basal ice formation and deformation: a review. Prog. Phys. Geogr., 13(4), 529558.
Hubbard, B. and Sharp, M.. 1993. Weertman regelation, multiple refreezing events and the isotopic evolution of the basal ice layer. J. Glaciol., 39(132), 275291.
Hubbard, B. and Sharp, M.. 1995. Basal ice faciès and their formation in the western Alps. Arct. Alp. Res., 27(4), 301310.
Hubbard, B. P., Sharp, M. J., Willis, I. C., Nielsen, M. K. and Smart, C. C.. 1995. Borehole water-level variations arid the structure of the subglacial hydrological system of Haut Glacier d’Arolla, Valais, Switzerland. J. Glaciol., 41(139), 572583.
Hudleston, P. J. 1977. Similar folds, recumbent folds, and gravity tectonics in ice and rocks. J. Geol., 85(1), 113122.
Jouzel, J. and Souchez, R. A.. 1982. Melting–refreezing at the glacier sole and the isotopic composition of the ice. J. Glaciol., 28(98), 3542.
Kamb, B. and LaChapelle, E.. 1964. Direct observation of the mechanism of glacier sliding over bedrock. J. Glaciol., 5(38), 159172.
Koerner, R. M. 1977. Distribution of microparticles in a 299-m core through the Devon Ice Cap, Northwest Territories, Canada, International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication 118 (Symposium at Grenoble 1975 — Isotopes and Impurities in Snow and Ice), 371376.
Koerner, R. M., Fisher, D. A. and Parnandi, M.. 1981. Bore-hole video and photographic cameras. Ann. Glaciol., 2, 3438.
Lamb, H. R. and 8 others. 1995. The composition of subglacial meltwater sampled from boreholes at the Haul Glacier d’Arolla, Switzerland. International Association of Hydrological Sciences Publication 228 (Symposium at Boulder 1995 — Biogeochemistry of Seasonally Snow-Covered Catchments), 395403.
Lawson, D. E. and Kulla, J. B.. 1978. An oxygen isotope investigation of the origin of the basal zone of the Matanuska Glacier, Alaska. J. Geol., 86(6), 673685.
Lawson, W. J., Sharp, M.J. and Hambrey, M. J.. 1994. The structural geology of a surge-type glacier. J. Struct. Geol., 16(10), 1447–1462.
Menzies, J. 1995. The dynamics of ice flow, In Menzies, J., ed. Modern glacial environments: processes, dynamics and sediments. Vol. 1. Oxford, Butterworth-Heinemann, 101138.
Paterson, W. S. B. 1994. The physics of glaciers. Third edition. Oxford, etc., Elsevier.
Pessl, F., Jr and Frederick, J. E.. 1981. Sediment source for melt-water deposits. Ann. Glaciol., 2, 9296.
Pohjola, V. A. 1993. TV-video observations of bed and basal sliding on Storglaciären, Sweden. J. Glaciol., 39(131), 111118.
Pohjola, V. A. 1994. TV-video observations of englacial voids in Storglaciären, Sweden. J. Glaciol.,40(135), 231240.
Rea, B. R. and Whalley, W. B.. 1994. Subglacial observations from Øksfjordjøkelen, north Norway. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 19(7), 659673.
Robin, G. de Q. 1976. Is the basal ice of a temperate glacier at the pressure melting point? J. Glaciol., 16(74), 183196.
Shaw, J. 1977. Tills deposited in arid polar environments. Can. J. Earth Sci., 14(6), 1239–1245.
Strasser, J. C., Lawson, D. E., Larson, C. J., Evenson, E. B. and Alley, R. B.. 1996. Preliminary results of tritium analyses in basal ice, Matanuska Glacier, Alaska, U.S.A.: evidence for subglacial ice accretion. Ann. Glaciol., 22, 126133.
Tison, J. -L. and Lorrain, R. D.. 1987. A mechanism of basal ice-layer formation involving major ice-fabric changes. J. Glaciol., 33(113), 4750.
Tison, J. -L., Souchez, R. and Lorrain, R.. 1989. On the incorporation of un-consolidated sediments in basal ice: present-day examples. Z. Geomorphol., 72, Supplementband, 173183.
Tranter, M. and 9 others. In press. Variability in the chemical composition of in situ subglacial meltwaters. Hydrol. Processes.
Vivian, R. and Bocquet, G.. 1973. Subglacial cavitation phenomena under the Glacier d’Argentière, Mont Blanc, France. J. Glaciol., 12(66), 439451.
Weertman, J. 1961. Mechanism for the formation of inner moraines found near the edge of cold ice caps and ice sheets. J. Glaciol., 3(30), 965978.


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed