Tracer experiments, and water-level observations made while drilling 47 boreholes in an overdeepened section of Storglaciären, have demonstrated that nearly all of the water passing through this part of the glacier moves in englacial conduits. Much of the viscous energy dissipated by subglacial water flowing up an adverse bed slope out of such an overdeepening may be needed to warm the water to keep it at the pressure-melting point. If the adverse slope is sufficiently steep, freezing may occur within the conduits. The possibility for enlargement of conduits by melting is thus limited and water pressures become high. We infer that this, combined with possible blocking of conduits by freezing, forces the water to seek englacial pathways.
The frequency with which englacial conduits are encountered during drilling suggests that there are several hundred of them in any given cross-section of the glacier. Consequently, each must carry a small fraction of the total discharge, say ∼ 10−3 m3 s−1. Tracer experiments suggest that flow rates in these conduits are < 10− m s−1, so conduit cross-sectional areas must be ∼10−2 m2, a size that is consistent with video observations in boreholes. The observed mean hydraulic gradient through the overdeepening is ∼0.04. If the conduits were of uniform cross-sectional area, the roughness implied by these figures would be unreasonably high and water pressures in them would be lower than observed. Thus, we hypothesize that conduits are locally constricted to only a small fraction of their average cross-sectional area.