Identifying spatial and temporal dynamics of proglacial groundwater-surface-water exchange using combined temperature-tracing methods

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


  • Dominic A Tristram
  • Amir Levy
  • Zoe P. Robinson
  • Richard Waller
  • John Weatherill

Colleges, School and Institutes

External organisations

  • Keele University


The effect of proglacial groundwater systems on surface hydrology and ecology in cold regions often is neglected when assessing the ecohydrological implications of climate change. We present a novel approach in which we combined 2 temperature-tracing techniques to assess the spatial patterns and short-term temporal dynamics of groundwater–surface-water exchange in the proglacial zone of Skaftafellsjökull, a retreating glacier in southeastern Iceland. Our study focuses on localized groundwater discharge to a surface-water environment, where high temporal- and spatial-resolution mapping of sediment surface and subsurface temperatures (10–15 cm depth) were obtained by Fiber-Optic Distributed Temperature Sensing (FO-DTS). The FO-DTS survey identified temporally consistent locations of temperature anomalies at the sediment–water interface, indicating distinct zones of cooler groundwater upwelling. The high-resolution FO-DTS surveys were combined with calculations of 1-dimensional groundwater seepage fluxes based on 3 vertical sediment temperature profiles, covering depths of 10, 25, and 40 cm below the lake bed. The calculated groundwater seepage rates ranged between 1.02 to 6.10 m/d. We used the combined techniques successfully to identify substantial temporal and spatial
heterogeneities in groundwater–surface exchange fluxes that have relevance for the ecohydrological functioning of the investigated system and its potential resilience to environmental change.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-110
Number of pages11
JournalFreshwater Science
Issue number1
Early online date9 Jan 2015
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 9 Jan 2015


  • proglacial groundwater, groundwater-surface-water exchange , Fiber-Optic Distributed Temperature Sensing , seepage flux , glacial retreat , ecohydrology , Iceland