To improve our understanding of the interactions between hydrology and dynamics in mostly cold glaciers (in which water flow is limited by thermal regime), we analyse short-term (every two days) variations in glacier flow in the ablation zone of polythermal John Evans Glacier, High Arctic Canada. We monitor the spatial and temporal propagation of high-velocity events, and examine their impacts upon supraglacial drainage processes and evolving subglacial drainage system structure. Each year, in response to the rapid establishment of supraglacial-subglacial drainage connections in the mid-ablation zone, a 'spring event' of high horizontal surface velocities and high residual vertical motion propagates downglacier over two to four days from the mid-ablation zone to the terminus. Subsequently, horizontal velocities fall relative to the spring event but remain higher than over winter, reflecting channelization of subglacial drainage but continued supraglacial meltwater forcing. Further transient high-velocity events occur later in each melt season in response to melt-induced rising supraglacial meltwater inputs to the glacier bed, but the dynamic response of the glacier contrasts with that recorded during the spring event, with the degree of spatial propagation a function of the degree to which the subglacial drainage system has become channelized.