We present results of a detailed investigation of surface motion across the tongue of a polythermal glacier, midre Lovenbreen, Svalbard, during the 1999 summer. Surface velocities in the warm-based upper tongue increased during periods of enhanced surface melting and rainfall events, and force-balance analysis indicates that these velocity variations were locally forced, probably by fluctuations in subglacial water pressure. Surface speed-ups were also observed on the cold-based lower tongue (which acted as a sticky spot, through which there was minimal subglacial drainage for most of the summer), but these were largely non-locally forced by longitudinal coupling to the faster-moving ice up-glacier. On one occasion, however, a large, rapid input of surface water to the glacier reduced the basal drag beneath the cold-based lower tongue, presumably due to hydraulic jacking. This resulted in locally forced enhanced surface velocities across the entire tongue, accompanied by a breaching of the lower tongue and an outburst of subglacially stored water.