Laboratory observations of sediment entrainment by freezing supercooled water

Simon Cook, Peter G. Knight, Deborah A. Knight, Richard I. Waller

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    5 Citations (Scopus)


    Debris in basal ice produced by glaciohydraulic supercooling is typically characterized by high proportions of silt. A prominent hypothesis for this silt-dominance is that frazil ice growing in supercooled water preferentially traps silt from sediment-laden water percolating through it. It has therefore been suggested that silt-dominance may be diagnostic of glaciohydraulic supercooling. The aim of our work is to test this hypothesis that freezing sediment-laden supercooled water necessarily produces ice dominated by silt. We do this by simulating two freezing processes under laboratory conditions: (1) percolation of sediment-laden water through frazil ice; (2) turbulent supercooling and subsequent freezing of sediment-laden water. In experiments repeated using different particle sizes (ssilt and clay in individual experiments) both processes entrained sand most effectively and silt least effectively. In experiments using a sediment mixture dominated by medium to coarse silt, both processes produced ice facies dominated by particle sizes between fine sand and coarse silt. These results suggest that silt-dominance should therefore not be expected for supercooled freeze-on, and is not a reliable diagnostic signature for supercooling. The silt-dominated character of basal ice types associated with supercooling may result from other controls such as a silt-dominated sediment supply or subglacial water flow rates, rather than the freezing process.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)351-362
    Number of pages12
    JournalGeografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography
    Issue number3
    Early online date30 Jan 2012
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2012


    • Basal ice
    • Freezing processes
    • Laboratory experiments
    • Sediment entrainment
    • Supercooling

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Geology
    • Geography, Planning and Development


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