Seasonal changes in basal conditions at Briksdalsbreen, Norway: the winter-spring transition

The winter-spring transition is a dynamic time within the glacier system, because it marks a period of instability as the glacier undergoes a change in state from winter to summer. This period is normally associated with sudden pressure fluctuations resulting in hydrological instabilities within the subglacial drainage system. New data are presented from wireless multi-sensor subglacial probes incorporated within the till at Briksdalsbreen, Norway. Water pressure readings recorded a two-phase winter-spring transition. Event 1 occurred early in the year (December-January) and marked the start of activity within the subglacial environment following the winter. However, this did not result in any permanent changes in subglacial activity and was followed by a period of quiescence. Event 2 occurred later in the year in accordance with changing external weather conditions and the retreat of the snow pack. It was characterized by high-magnitude pressure peaks and diurnal oscillations in connected regions. The variations in sensor trends that followed this event suggested that a transition in the morphology of the subglacial drainage system had occurred in response to these pressure fluctuations. Event 2 also showed some similarities with spring events recorded at valley glaciers in the Alps. A conceptual model is presented associating the form of the winter-spring transition with respect to the location of the probes within connected and unconnected regions of the subglacial drainage system. These data provide further evidence for temporal and spatial heterogeneous subglacial drainage systems and processes. The identification and analysis of subglacial activity during the winter-spring transition can contribute to the interpretation of hydro-mechanical processes occurring within the subglacial environment and their effect on glacier dynamics.


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Authors: Rose, Kathryn C., Hart, Jane K., Martinez, Kirk

1 January, 2009
Boreas / 38
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