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20th century mass balance and thermal regime change at Scott Turnerbreen, Svalbard

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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

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756499781821986

Publication date: January 1, 1999

More about this publication?
  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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