Swift, D.A. and Nienow, P.W. and Hoey, T.B. (2005)
Basal sediment evacuation by subglacial meltwater: suspended sediment transport from Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland
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- Earth Surface Processes and Landforms
- Proglacial suspended sediment transport was monitored at Haut Glacier d'Arolla, Switzerland, during the 1998 melt season to investigate the mechanisms of basal sediment evacuation by subglacial meltwater. Sub-seasonal changes in relationships between suspended sediment transport and discharge demonstrate that the structure and hydraulics of the subglacial drainage system critically influenced how basal sediment was accessed and entrained. Under hydraulically inefficient subglacial drainage at the start of the melt season, sediment availability was generally high but sediment transport increased relatively slowly with discharge. Later in the melt season, sediment transport increased more rapidly with discharge as subglacial meltwater became confined to a spatially limited network of channels following removal of the seasonal snowpack from the ablation area. Flow capacity is inferred to have increased more rapidly with discharge within subglacial channels because rapid changes in discharge during highly peaked diurnal runoff cycles are likely to have been accommodated largely by changes in flow velocity. Basal sediment availability declined during channelization but increased throughout the remainder of the monitored period, resulting in very efficient basal sediment evacuation over the peak of the melt season. Increased basal sediment availability during the summer appears to have been linked to high diurnal water pressure variation within subglacial channels inferred from the strong increase in flow velocity with discharge. Basal sediment availability therefore appears likely to have been increased by (1) enhanced local ice-bed separation leading to extra-channel flow excursions and[sol ]or (2) the deformation of basal sediment towards low-pressure channels due to a strong diurnally reversing hydraulic gradient between channels and areas of hydraulically less-efficient drainage.