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Ice fracturing during jökulhlaups: implications for englacial floodwater routing and outlet development

Roberts, Matthew J., Russell, Andrew J., TWEED, Fiona and Knudsen, Óskar (2000) Ice fracturing during jökulhlaups: implications for englacial floodwater routing and outlet development. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 25 (13). pp. 1429-1446. ISSN 0197-9337

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Abstract or description

Theoretical studies of glacial outburst floods (jökulhlaups) assume that: (i) intraglacial floodwater is transported efficiently in isolated conduits; (ii) intraglacial conduit enlargement operates proportionally to increasing discharge; (iii) floodwater exits glaciers through pre-existing ice-marginal outlets; and (iv) the morphology and positioning of outlets remains fixed during flooding. Direct field observations, together with historical jökulhlaup accounts, confirm that these theoretical assumptions are not always correct. This paper presents new evidence for spatial and temporal changes in intraglacial floodwater routing during jökulhlaups; secondly, it identifies and explains the mechanisms controlling the position and morphology of supraglacial jökulhlaup outlets; and finally, it presents a conceptual model of the controls on supraglacial outbursts. Field observations are presented from two Icelandic glaciers, Skeiðarárjökull and Sólheimajökull. Video footage and aerial photographs, taken before, during and after the Skeiðarárjökull jökulhlaup and immediately after the Sólheimajökull jökulhlaup, reveal changes in floodwater routing and the positioning and morphology of outlets. Field observations confirm that glaciers cannot transmit floodwater as efficiently as previously assumed. Rapid increases in jökulhlaup discharge generate basal hydraulic pressures in excess of ice overburden. Under these circumstances, floodwater can be forced through the surface of glaciers, leading to the development of a range of supraglacial outlets. The rate of increase in hydraulic pressure strongly influences the type of supraglacial outlet that can develop. Steady increases in basal hydraulic pressure can retro-feed pre-existing englacial drainage, whereas transient increases in pressure can generate hydraulic fracturing. The position and morphology of supraglacial outlets provide important controls on the spatial and temporal impact of flooding. The development of supraglacial jökulhlaup outlets provides a new mechanism for rapid englacial debris entrainment.

Item Type: Article
Faculty: Previous Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Sciences > Sciences
Depositing User: Fiona TWEED
Date Deposited: 11 Nov 2013 15:59
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 13:40

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