Glacier velocity and water input variability in a maritime environment: Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

Laura M. Kehrl, Huw J. Horgan, Brian M. Anderson, Ruzica Dadic, Andrew N. Mackintosh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Short-term glacier velocity variations typically occur when a water input is accommodated by an increase in the subglacial water pressure. Although these velocity variations have been well documented on many glaciers, few studies have considered them on glaciers where heavy rain and glacier melt occur year-round. This study investigates the relationship between water inputs and glacier velocity on Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand. We installed six GNSS stations across the lower glacier during austral summer 2010/11 and one station during summer 2012/13. Glacier velocity remained elevated at all stations for 7 days following large rain events. During diurnal melt events, we find velocity variations in the early afternoon (12:00-16:00) at 600ma.s.l. and in the late evening (20:00- 01:00) at 400ma.s.l. We hypothesize that the late-evening velocity variations occurred as an upstream region of high subglacial water pressures and accelerated ice motion propagated downstream. This mechanism may also explain the increased longitudinal compression and transverse extension across the lower glacier during speed-up events. Our results indicate that the subglacial drainage system likely decreases in efficiency upstream and that the water input variability can still cause short-term velocity variations despite the large year-round water inputs.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)663-674
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number228
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Glacier flow
  • Glacier geophysics
  • Glacier hydrology
  • Ice velocity
  • Mountain glaciers

Cite this