Groundwater hydrochemistry in the active layer of the proglacial zone, Finsterwalderbreen, Svalbard

Glacial bulk meltwaters and active-layer groundwaters were sampled from the proglacial zone of Finsterwalderbreen during a single melt season in 1999, in order to determine the geochemical processes that maintain high chemical weathering rates in the proglacial zone of this glacier. Results demonstrate that the principle means of solute acquisition is the weathering of highly reactive moraine and fluvial active-layer sediments by supra-permafrost groundwaters. Active-layer groundwater derives from the thaw of the proglacial snowpack, buried ice and glacial bulk meltwaters. Groundwater evolves by sulphide oxidation and carbonate dissolution. Evaporation- and freeze-concentration of groundwater in summer and winter, respectively produce Mg–Ca-sulphate salts on the proglacial surface. Re-dissolution of these salts in early summer produces groundwaters that are supersaturated with respect to calcite.There is a pronounced spatial pattern to the geochemical evolution of groundwater. Close to the main proglacial channel, active layer sediments are flushed diurnally by bulk meltwaters. Here, Mg–Ca-sulphate deposits become exhausted in the early season and geochemical evolution proceeds by a combination of sulphide oxidation and carbonate dissolution. At greater distances from the channel, the dissolution of Mg–Ca-sulphate salts is a major influence and dilution by the bulk meltwaters is relatively minor. The influence of sulphate salt dissolution decreases during the sampling season, as these salts are exhausted and waters become increasingly routed by subsurface flowpaths.