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Artificial perturbations of borehole water levels, known as slug tests, are a useful means of characterizing the glacier hydrologic system. Slug tests were performed on Bench Glacier, Alaska, in 21 boreholes over three field seasons during the transition from a winter to a summer drainage mode. Fifty-four slug tests were conducted, with water level monitoring in up to five boreholes adjacent to the slugged borehole. Seven of the slug tests were performed in conjunction with dye dispersion tests to identify water pathways within the slugged borehole following perturbation. Nearly 60% of monitored adjacent boreholes showed a hydraulic connection to the slugged borehole via the glacier bed. The nature and degree of connectivity was temporally variable, suggesting that the drainage network at the bed was highly dynamic on a daily timescale and spatial scale of tens of meters. The variability of slug test responses over time and space limit the feasibility of six alternative explanations for the oscillatory water level behavior characteristic of the underdamped response. We propose a seventh, that is, that coherent air packages are a reasonable means of producing the compliance needed to generate the underdamped slug test responses on Bench Glacier, and that these air packages may exist within the glacier at the tips of subglacially propagated fractures.

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Copyright 2008 by the American Geophysical Union. DOI: 10.1029/2007JF000908