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The cold-based termini of polythermal glaciers are usually assumed to adhere strongly to an immobile substrate and thereby supply significant resistance to the flow of warm-based ice upglacier. This compressive environment is commonly thought to uplift basal sediment to the surface of the glacier by folding and thrust faulting. We present model and field evidence from the terminus of Storglaciaren, Sweden, showing that the cold margin provides limited resistance to flow from up-glacier. Ice temperatures indicate that basal freezing occurs in this zone at 10−1 –10−2 ma−1, but model results indicate that basal motion at rates greater than 1ma−1 must, nevertheless, persist there for surface and basal velocities to be consistent with measurements. Estimated longitudinal compressive stresses of 20– 25 kPa within the terminus further indicate that basal resistance offered by the cold-based terminus is small. These results indicate that where polythermal glaciers are underlain by unlithified sediments, ice-flow trajectories and sediment transport pathways may be affected by subglacial topography and hydrology more than by the basal thermal regime.


Definitive version available at from Journal of Glaciology, vol. 57, no. 201, 2011.

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