Impact of subglacial hydrology on the release of water from temporary storage in an Alpine glacier

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Periods of storage and release of surface runoff that is routed englacially and subglacially are identified from a time series of cumulative water balance between 31 July and 11 September 1999 at Findelengletscher, Switzerland. The influence of subglacial hydrology on water routing within the glacier, and therefore on trends of water storage and release, is determined through comparisons of phase relationships between daily maxima, daily minima and diurnal ranges of borehole water levels, supraglacial runoff and proglacial discharge. Variations of water levels in 21 boreholes in the ablation zone suggest that although subglacial drainage is spatially dynamic, hydrologically efficient tunnel–conduit-style drainage dominates diurnal cycles of water transfer through the glacier. Over longer periods, however, storage and release of subglacially routed water is greatly influenced by the coexistence of, and temporary interconnections between, hydrologically inefficient distributed drainage and the tunnel–conduit network. Water levels in three boreholes indicate that after water storage increases in distributed drainage, hydraulic gradients between the different drainage systems may increase sufficiently to cause connections that initiate release of water when: (1) low maximum daily surface runoff causes low water pressures in the tunnel–conduit system; or (2) reorganization within distributed drainage causes spatially localized increases in water pressure.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-75
JournalAnnals of Glaciology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2005


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