Short-term variations in glacier flow controlled by subglacial water pressure at Lauteraargletscher, Bernese Alps, Switzerland

Short-term variations in horizontal and vertical surface motion were studied with high temporal resolution during the ablation season in Lauteraargletscher, Bernese Alps, Switzerland. Horizontal surface flow speed oscillated diurnally, showing a correlation with the water level in a borehole. Flow speed increased as a function of the water level, with an asymptote at the ice overburden level. This observation implied that the flow variations were principally controlled by the local water pressure which enhanced basal motions. Detailed examination of the diurnal variations, however, showed that the speed was larger when the pressure was increasing than when it was decreasing. Greater speed with increasing pressure was interpreted by subglacial watercavity opening and/or longitudinal stress coupling with the upper reaches of the glacier. Upward surface movements were observed when the glacier flow speed increased. Simultaneous measurement of internal vertical strain in a borehole showed that the uplift had two different sources: vertical straining of ice and volume increase of subglacial water cavities. The vertical surface movement was largely affected by the vertical strain, and the uplift events could not be simply attributed to cavity opening.


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Authors: Sugiyama, Shin, Gudmundsson, G. Hilmar

On this site: Hilmar Gudmundsson
1 January, 2004
Journal of Glaciology / 50
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