Water flow through sediments and at the ice-sediment interface beneath Sermeq Kujalleq (Store Glacier), Greenland

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Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)665-684
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number270
Early online date08 Dec 2021
Publication statusPublished - 08 Aug 2022
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Subglacial hydrology modulates basal motion but remains poorly constrained, particularly for soft-bedded Greenlandic outlet glaciers. Here, we report detailed measurements of the response of subglacial water pressure to the connection and drainage of adjacent water-filled boreholes drilled through kilometre-thick ice on Sermeq Kujalleq (Store Glacier). These measurements provide evidence for gap opening at the ice-sediment interface, Darcian flow through the sediment layer, and the forcing of water pressure in hydraulically-isolated cavities by stress transfer. We observed a small pressure drop followed by a large pressure rise in response to the connection of an adjacent borehole, consistent with the propagation of a flexural wave within the ice and underlying deformable sediment. We interpret the delayed pressure rise as evidence of no pre-existing conduit and the progressive decrease in hydraulic transmissivity as the closure of a narrow (< 1.5 mm) gap opened at the ice-sediment interface, and a reversion to Darcian flow through the sediment layer with a hydraulic conductivity of ≤ 10-6 m s-1. We suggest that gap opening at the ice-sediment interface deserves further attention as it will occur naturally in response to the rapid pressurisation of water at the bed.