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Dendritic subglacial drainage systems in cold glaciers formed by cut-and-closure processes

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The routing and storage of meltwater and the configuration of drainage systems in glaciers exert a profound influence on glacier behaviour. However, little is known about the hydrological systems of cold glaciers, which form a significant proportion of the total glacier population in the climate sensitive region of the High Arctic. Using glacio-speleological techniques, we obtained direct access to explore and survey three conduit systems and one moulin within the tongue area of Tellbreen, a small cold-based valley glacier in central Spitsbergen. More than 600 m of conduits were surveyed and mapped in plan, profile and cross-section view to analyse the configuration of the drainage system. The investigations revealed that cold-based glaciers can exhibit a dendritic drainage network with supra-, en- and subglacial components formed most likely by cut-and-closure processes as well as surface-to-bed drainage via moulins. Furthermore, we observed that water is stored within the glacier and released gradually via subglacial conduits during the winter months, forming a large and active icing in the proglacial area. The presence of supra-, en- and subglacial components, the surface-to-bed moulin and the dendritic subglacial drainage network suggest that existing models and understanding of the hydrology of cold glaciers needs to be re-evaluated, mostly concerning the different possible pathways and processes that form the hydrological system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-608
JournalGeografiska Annaler. Part A. Physical Geography
Issue number4
Early online date2 Sep 2014
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2014


  • Naegeli et al. (2014) GEoA

    Rights statement: This is the accepted version of the following article: Dendritic Subglacial Drainage Systems in Cold Glaciers Formed by Cut-and-Closure Processes Naegeli, K., Lovell, H., Zemp, M. & Benn, D. I. 2014 In : Geografiska Annaler. Part A. Physical Geography, which has been published in final form at;jsessionid=30C6CE4798655A8FE80D297BF4A7C9B3.f03t04

    Accepted author manuscript (Post-print), 2 MB, PDF document

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