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Surges of glaciers in Iceland

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Abstract:

Surges are common in all the major ice caps in Iceland, and historical reports of surge occurrence go back several centuries. Data collection and regular observation over the last several decades have permitted a detailed description of several surges, from which it is possible to generalize on the nature of surging in Icelandic glaciers. Combining the historical records of glacier-front variations and recent field research, we summarize the geographic distribution of surging glaciers, their subglacial topography and geology, the frequency and duration of surges, changes in glacier surface geometry during the surge cycle, and measured velocity changes compared to calculated balance velocities. We note the indicators of surge onset and describe changes in ice, water and sediment fluxes during a surge. Surges accomplish a significant fraction of the total mass transport through the main outlet glaciers of ice caps in Iceland and have important implications for their hydrology. Our analysis of the data suggests that surge-type glaciers in Iceland are characterized by gently sloping surfaces and that they move too slowly to remain in balance given their accumulation rate. Surge frequency is neither regular nor clearly related to glacier size or mass balance. Steeply sloping glaciers, whether hard- or soft-bedded, seem to move sufficiently rapidly to keep in balance with the annual accumulation.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3189/172756403781816365

Publication date: 2003-01-01

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.

    Beginning in 2016, content will be available at https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/annals-of-glaciology.

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