The behaviour of melt water within a glacial system

University essay from Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper; Uppsala universitet/Institutionen för geovetenskaper

Abstract: A glacier contains of many different layers of different properties. Each layer is formed during a calendar year similar to tree rings and their layers. A glacier has two different zones, the first one referred to as accumulation zone, where the addition of snow exceeds the loss of snow. The second, the ablation zone, is the zone where the loss of snow exceeds the addition of snow. These two zones are divided by the equilibrium line, where the addition of snow equals the loss of snow. Lenses of ice, caused by the summer melt, usually divide the horizontal layers within the glacier from one another. During the winter, snow will accumulate on top of the glacier and during the upcoming summer, the same snow will partly melt due to solar radiation. Some of this meltwater will penetrate the ice lenses and the layers of snow beneath, while some of it will refreeze as the winter once again returns. As the seasons change, freshly fallen snow will be compacted and somewhat water saturated. Compaction will lead to air passages being sealed off into separate air bubbles, which also leads to a change in density; a fixed volume gets heavier due to ongoing compaction. Snow that gets compacted turns into firn which has a larger mass per volume than snow does. Further compaction leads to glacier ice. The purpose of this study is to determine what effect the ice lenses has on the permeating meltwater and whether differences in snow density have similar effects. To achieve this purpose, a glacier was simulated inside a freezing room, with the help of a box that was packed with a few layers of snow. The amount of layers represented the same amount of years for a natural glacier. The experiment was performed twice, once without ice lenses but with varying densities and once with ice lenses but with similar densities. The very top layer was dyed red to track the descending meltwater accurately. To cause the melting, five infrared lamps were used to simulate solar radiation on the very top.

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