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How much do we really know about glacier surging?

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Some of the ideas about glacier surging are considered, mainly but not entirely in the light of observations of temperate glaciers in Alaska, U.S.A., made within the last 15 years. Climate has an influence on surge recurrence interval. Climate and weather also affect surge initiation, termination and magnitude. Regional studies lead to the speculation that subglacial "till" plays a key role in surging, and it has been found under all surge-type glaciers studied so far, including Black Rapids and Variegated Glaciers, Alaska. In most of the glaciers studied, till deformation processes dominate the motion in quiescence. The linked-cavity model of surge triggering and rapid motion is not consistent with these observations, but the limited coverage of the observations does not rule it out under parts of the glaciers studied. The till observations in Alaska raise old questions about the interaction between till and the hydraulic systems of temperate glaciers. The role of stored water, which observations show to be active even in winter on Black Rapids Glacier, is noted.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2003

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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