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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
© Author(s) 2015. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
07 Oct 2015
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC). The revised manuscript was not accepted.
An investigation of the influence of supraglacial debris on glacier-hydrology
C. L. Fyffe1, B. W. Brock2, M. P. Kirkbride3, D. W. F. Mair4, N. S. Arnold5, C. Smiraglia6, G. Diolaiuti6, and F. Diotri7 1Institute of Science and the Environment, University of Worcester, Worcester, UK
2Department of Geography, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
3School of the Environment, University of Dundee, Dundee, UK
4School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
5Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
6Department of Earth Sciences "Ardito Desio", University of Milan, Milan, Italy
7Agenzia Regionale per la Protezione dell'Ambiente della Valle d'Aosta, Aosta, Italy
Abstract. The influence of supraglacial debris on the rate and spatial distribution of glacier surface melt is well established, but its potential impact on the structure and evolution of the drainage system of extensively debris-covered glaciers has not been previously investigated. Forty-eight dye injections were conducted on Miage Glacier, Italian Alps, throughout the 2010 and 2011 ablation seasons. An efficient conduit system emanates from moulins in the mid-part of the glacier, which are downstream of a high melt area of dirty ice and patchy debris. High melt rates and runoff concentration by intermoraine troughs encourages the early-season development of a channelized system downstream of this area. Conversely, the drainage system beneath the continuously debris-covered lower ablation area is generally inefficient, with multi-peaked traces suggesting a distributed network, which likely feeds into the conduit system fed by the upglacier moulins. Drainage efficiency from the debris-covered area increased over the season but trace flow velocity remained lower than from the upper glacier moulins. Low and less-peaked melt inputs combined with the hummocky topography of the debris-covered area inhibits the formation of an efficient drainage network. These findings are relevant to regions with extensive glacial debris cover and where debris cover is expanding.

Citation: Fyffe, C. L., Brock, B. W., Kirkbride, M. P., Mair, D. W. F., Arnold, N. S., Smiraglia, C., Diolaiuti, G., and Diotri, F.: An investigation of the influence of supraglacial debris on glacier-hydrology, The Cryosphere Discuss.,, 2015.
C. L. Fyffe et al.
C. L. Fyffe et al.


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Short summary
Dye-tracing of a debris-covered glacier revealed that its hydrological system was not similar to that of a debris-free glacier. Beneath the thick debris covering the lower glacier the drainage system was mainly inefficient, probably due lower sub-debris melt rates causing a lack of the large inputs required to open efficient channels. However, efficient channels opened by the large melt inputs from the debris-free areas did route water from the moulins above the thick debris.
Dye-tracing of a debris-covered glacier revealed that its hydrological system was not similar to...