Articles | Volume 19, issue 6
Research article
15 Jun 2015
Research article |  | 15 Jun 2015

Dye tracing to determine flow properties of hydrocarbon-polluted Rabots glaciär, Kebnekaise, Sweden

C. C. Clason, C. Coch, J. Jarsjö, K. Brugger, P. Jansson, and G. Rosqvist

Abstract. Over 11 000 L of kerosene was deposited on the surface of Rabots glaciär on the Kebnekaise Massif, northern Sweden, following the crash of a Royal Norwegian Air Force aircraft in March 2012. An environmental monitoring programme was subsequently commissioned, including a series of dye tracing experiments during the 2013 melt season, conducted to investigate the transport of pollutants through the glacier hydrological system. This experimental set-up provided a basis from which we could gain new insight into the internal hydrological system of Rabots glaciär. Results of dye tracing experiments reveal a degree of homogeneity in the topology of the drainage system throughout July and August, with an increase in efficiency as the season progresses, as reflected by decreasing temporary storage and dispersivity. Early onset of melting likely led to formation of an efficient, discrete drainage system early in the melt season, subject to decreasing sinuosity and braiding as the season progressed. Four distinct meltwater flow regimes are identified to summarize the temporal and spatial evolution of the system. Analysis of turbidity-discharge hysteresis further supports the formation of discrete, efficient drainage, with clockwise diurnal hysteresis suggesting easy mobilization of readily available sediments in channels. Dye injection immediately downstream of the pollution source zone reveals prolonged storage of dye followed by fast, efficient release. Twinned with a low dye recovery, and supported by sporadic detection of hydrocarbons in the proglacial river, we suggest that meltwater, and thus pollutants in solution, may be released periodically through an efficient, and likely pressurized, hydrological system within the upper reaches of the glacier.