20th century mass balance and thermal regime change at Scott Turnerbreen, Svalbard
Abstract:The changing geometry and thermal structure of Scott Turnerbreen, a 3.3 km2 glacier located at 78° N in the Svalbard archipelago, is documented. A net mass balance of −0.58 m a−1 w.e. is determined for the period 1936–93, by comparing a recent topographic survey with earlier maps. The thermal regime was investigated with multi-frequency radar and borehole thermistors. Basal temperatures of −4.1° and −3.3°C were measured, and observed temperature gradients indicate that the entire bed is frozen. This interpretation is confirmed by continuous radar profiling, which demonstrates the absence of high-frequency scattering from temperate ice. However, with the reconstructed 1936 ice-thickness distribution, at least 2 km of the length of the glacier bed would be at the pressure-melting temperature. The 20th century mass-balance history of Scott Turnerbreen is likely to have been influenced by a surge occurring around 1930, which meant that the glacier was already in a state of disequilibrium before the abrupt climate perturbation marking the termination of the Little Ice Age. A significant loss of mass has been accompanied by a transition from inferred polythermal to entirely non-temperate thermal conditions. Current driving stress and velocity are very low, and the glacier has almost certainly fallen out of the surge cycle. Within 60 years, there has therefore been a wholesale transformation in the geometry, thermal structure and dynamics of Scott Turnerbreen.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: January 1, 1999
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