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Links between short-term velocity variations and the subglacial hydrology of a predominantly cold polythermal glacier

  • Luke Copland (a1), Martin J. Sharp (a1) and Peter W. Nienow (a2)

Abstract

The surface velocity of a predominantly cold polythermal glacier (John Evans Glacier, Ellesmere Island, Canada) varies significantly on both seasonal and shorter time-scales. Seasonal variations reflect the penetration of supraglacial water to the glacier bed through significant thicknesses of cold ice. Shorter-term events are associated with periods of rapidly increasing water inputs to the subglacial drainage system. Early-season short-term events immediately follow the establishment of a drainage connection between glacier surface and glacier bed, and coincide with the onset of subglacial outflow at the terminus. A mid-season short-term event occurred as surface melting resumed following cold weather, and may have been facilitated by partial closure of subglacial channels during this cold period. There is a close association between the timing and spatial distribution of horizontal and vertical velocity anomalies, the temporal pattern of surface water input to the glacier, and the formation, seasonal evolution and distribution of subglacial drainage pathways. These factors presumably control the occurrence of highwater-pressure events and water storage at the glacier bed. The observed coupling between surface water inputs and glacier velocity may allow predominantly cold polythermal glaciers to respond rapidly to climate-induced changes in surface melting.

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References

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