Near-surface processes on glaciers, including water flow over bare ice and through seasonal snow and firn, have a significant effect on the speed, volume and chemistry of water flow through the glacier. The transient nature of the seasonal snow profoundly affects the water discharge and chemistry. Water flow through snow is fairly slow compared with flow over bare ice and a thinning snowpack on a glacier decreases the delay between peak meltwater input and peak stream discharge. Furthermore, early spring melt flushes the snowpack of solutes and by mid-summer the melt water flowing into the glacier is fairly clean by comparison. The firn, a relatively constant feature of glaciers, attenuates variations in water drainage into the glacier by temporarily storing water in saturated layer. Bare ice exerts opposite influences by accentuating variations in runoff by water flowing over the ice surface. The melt of firn and ice contributes relatively clean (solute-free) water to the glacier water system.
Additional publication details
Effect of snow and firn hydrology on the physical and chemical characteristics of glacial runoff