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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-138
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/tc-2019-138
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 15 Jul 2019

Submitted as: research article | 15 Jul 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal The Cryosphere (TC).

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

Christian Schoof Christian Schoof
  • Department of Earth, Ocean and Atmospheric Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Abstract. 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, 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 controls the onset of floods. In agreement with previous work, we show that floods only occur in a band of water throughput rates, and identify stabilizing mechanisms that allow steady drainage of an ice-dammed reservoir. We also show how stable limit cycle solutions emerge from the instability, a show how and why the stability properties of a drainage system with spatially spread-out water storage differ from those where storage is localized in a single reservoir or lake.

Christian Schoof
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Christian Schoof
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Short summary
Glacier lake outburst floods are major glacial hazards in which ice-dammed reservoirs rapidly drain, often in a recurring fashion. The main flood phase typically involves a growing channel being eroded into ice by water flow. What is poorly understood is how that channel first comes into being. In this paper, I investigate how an under-ice drainage system composed of small, naturally occurring voids can turn into a channel, and how this can explain the cyclical behaviour of outburst floods.
Glacier lake outburst floods are major glacial hazards in which ice-dammed reservoirs rapidly...
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