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Geologic Publications for Mount Rainier

Hydraulics of subglacial cavities

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Author(s): Joseph S. Walder

Document Type:
Publisher: Journal of Glaciology
Published Year: 1986
Volume: 32
Number: 112
Pages: 439 to 445
DOI Identifier: 10.1017/S0022143000012156
ISBN Identifier:

A theoretical model is developed to describe the steady-state behavior of interconnected, water-filled cavities at the glacier bed. Physically plausible cavities should contain constrictions along the flow path, with flow in the wider sections being relatively sluggish. Mean flow rates in cavities may be at least one order of magnitude less than in channels incised into the basal ice (R channels). Melting due to viscous dissipation - the process that allows R channels to exist - probably plays a minor or negligible role, as compared to glacier sliding, in determining the size of cavities. Furthermore, a system of subglacial cavities should not show a tendency for localization of flow in a few main conduits, as does an R-channel system. If water pressure rises to within several bars of overburden pressure, the rate of cavity closure by creep falls below the rate of cavity opening by sliding and melting, with cavities then becoming unstable. Subsequent evolution of the drainage system should depend upon the total melt-water flux. Circumstances may arise in which cavities and channels act as conduits for melt water; such a configuration would probably show unusual transient behavior.

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Suggested Citations:
In Text Citation:
Walder (1986) or (Walder, 1986)

References Citation:
Walder, J.S., 1986, Hydraulics of subglacial cavities: Journal of Glaciology, Vol. 32, No. 112, pp. 439-445, doi: 10.1017/S0022143000012156.