Subglacial drumlins and englacial fractures at the surge‐type glacier, Múlajökull, Iceland

Finlayson, Andrew
Phillips, Emrys
Iverson, Neal
Benediktsson, Ívar Örn
Zoet, Lucas
Iverson, Neal
Everest, Jez
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Geological and Atmospheric Sciences

The interaction between drumlins and overriding glacier ice is not well studied, largely due to the difficulty of identifying and accessing suitable active subglacial environments. The surge-type glacier Múlajökull, in central Iceland, overlies a known field of actively forming drumlins and therefore provides a rare opportunity to investigate the englacial structures that have developed in association with ice flow over the subglacial drumlins. In this study detailed ground penetrating radar surveys are combined with field observations to identify clear sets of up-glacier and down-glacier dipping fractures at Múlajökull’s margin. These are interpreted as conjugate shear planes or P- and R-type Reidel shears that developed and filled with saturated sediment derived from the glacier bed, during a previous surge. The fracture sets exhibit focused spatial distributions that are influenced by the subglacial topography. In particular, down-glacier dipping fractures are strongly focused over drumlin stoss slopes. These fractures, although well developed at depth, were mostly unable to transmit basal water and sediment up to the glacier surface during the surge cycle. In contrast, up-glacier dipping fractures formed over drumlin lee sides and in more gently sloping swales, and more frequently connected to the glacier surface providing a pathway for the evacuation of basal water and water-saturated sediment. The study suggests that the subglacial drumlins under Múlajökull’s margin has influenced the nature and distribution of englacial fractures, which could potentially contribute to spatial variations in basal water pressure during a surge.


This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Finlayson, Andrew, Emrys Phillips, Ívar Örn Benediktsson, Lucas K. Zoet, Neal R. Iverson, and Jez Everest. "Subglacial drumlins and englacial fractures at the surge‐type glacier, Múlajökull, Iceland." Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 44, no. 1 (2019): 367-380, which has been published in final form at doi: 10.1002/esp.4485. This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions.