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A cross-validated three-dimensional model of an englacial and subglacial drainage system in a High-Arctic glacier

  • Lena U. Hansen (a1) (a2), Jan A. Piotrowski (a1) (a3), Douglas I. Benn (a4) and Heidi Sevestre (a4)


Recent speleological surveys of meltwater drainage systems in cold and polythermal glaciers have documented dynamic englacial and in some cases subglacial conduits formed by the ‘cut-and-closure’ mechanism. Investigations of the spatial distribution of such conduits often require a combination of different methods. Here, we studied the englacial drainage system in the cold glacier Longyearbreen, Svalbard by combining speleological exploration of a 478 m long meltwater conduit with a high-resolution ground penetrating radar (GPR) survey with two different centre-frequencies (25 and 100 MHz). The results yielded a 3-D documentation of the present englacial drainage system. The study shows that the overall form of englacial conduits can be detected from velocity−depth converted GPR data, and that the 3-D model can facilitate a method to pinpoint the reflections in a radargram corresponding with the englacial drainage system, although fine detail cannot be resolved. Visible reflections approximately parallel to the mapped englacial water drainage system likely result from sediment incorporated in the ice or from abandoned parts of the englacial drainage system.

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This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Author for correspondence: Lena U. Hansen, E-mail:


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A cross-validated three-dimensional model of an englacial and subglacial drainage system in a High-Arctic glacier

  • Lena U. Hansen (a1) (a2), Jan A. Piotrowski (a1) (a3), Douglas I. Benn (a4) and Heidi Sevestre (a4)


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