An analysis of instabilities and limit cycles in glacier-dammed reservoirs

Schoof, Christian

Glacier lake outburst floods are common glacial hazards around the world. How big such floods can become (either in terms of peak discharge or in terms of total volume released) depends on how they are initiated: what causes the runaway enlargement of a subglacial or other conduit to start the flood, and how big can the lake get before that point is reached? Here we investigate how the spontaneous channelization of a linked-cavity drainage system can control the onset of floods. In agreement with previous work, we show that floods only occur in a band of water throughput rates in which steady reservoir drainage is unstable, and we identify stabilizing mechanisms that allow steady drainage of an ice-dammed reservoir. We also show how stable limit cycle solutions emerge from the instability and identify parameter regimes in which the resulting floods cause flotation of the ice dam. These floods are likely to be initiated by flotation rather than the unstable enlargement of a distributed drainage system.

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Schoof, Christian: An analysis of instabilities and limit cycles in glacier-dammed reservoirs. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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