Sensitivity of subglacial drainage to water supply distribution at the Kongsfjord basin, Svalbard

Scholzen, Chloé; Schuler, Thomas V.; Gilbert, Adrien

By regulating the amount, the timing, and the location of meltwater supply to the glacier bed, supraglacial hydrology potentially exerts a major control on the evolution of the subglacial drainage system, which in turn modulates ice velocity. Yet the configuration of the supraglacial hydrological system has received only little attention in numerical models of subglacial hydrology so far. Here we apply the two-dimensional subglacial hydrology model GlaDS (Glacier Drainage System model) to a Svalbard glacier basin with the aim of investigating how the spatial distribution of meltwater recharge affects the characteristics of the basal drainage system. We design four experiments with various degrees of complexity in the way that meltwater is delivered to the subglacial drainage model. Our results show significant differences between experiments in the early summer transition from distributed to channelized drainage, with discrete recharge at moulins favouring channelization at higher elevations and driving overall lower water pressures. Otherwise, we find that water input configuration only poorly influences subglacial hydrology, which instead is controlled primarily by subglacial topography. All experiments fail to develop channels of sufficient efficiency to substantially reduce summertime water pressures, which we attribute to small surface gradients and short melt seasons. The findings of our study are potentially applicable to most Svalbard tidewater glaciers with similar topography and low meltwater recharge. The absence of efficient channelization implies that the dynamics of tidewater glaciers in the Svalbard archipelago may be sensitive to future long-term trends in meltwater supply.

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Scholzen, Chloé / Schuler, Thomas V. / Gilbert, Adrien: Sensitivity of subglacial drainage to water supply distribution at the Kongsfjord basin, Svalbard. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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Rechteinhaber: Chloé Scholzen et al.

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