The initiation of glacier surging at Fridtjovbreen, Svalbard

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Glacier surges in Svalbard have long durations and multi-year terminations, but much less is known regarding surge initiation in the archipelago. Fridtjovbreen, a 12 km long glacier in central Spitsbergen, advanced ~2.8 km during a surge in the 1990s at a maximum rate of ~4.2 m d-1. Differential dual-azimuth satellite radar interferometry (SRI) is used to produce ten snapshots of three-dimensional surface dynamics and four digital elevation models covering the period October 1991–October 1997. The glacier velocity rose slowly and uniformly until June 1995. It then increased dramatically to a measured maximum of ~2.5 m d-1 during February and May 1996, and by October 1997 it had dropped. We attempt to evaluate errors in the calculated velocities. Systematic errors are evaluated using the apparent displacement of bedrock, ~0.03 m d-1. Errors arise from assumptions during processing, for example that ice-flow direction does not change during the surge. Two independent measurements using dual-azimuth processing show the mean absolute change in flow direction was ~1.2°. This study covers fast-flow initiation and peak flow, but not the deceleration phase. The SRI observations show a progressive acceleration phase to the surge, with no evidence of a surge front propagating down-glacier.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 2003

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  • 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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