Glacier changes in southern Spitsbergen, Svalbard, 1901-2000

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High-resolution ground-penetrating radar surveys at 50 MHz on the polythermal glaciers Hornbreen, Hambergbreen and several surrounding glaciers in southern Spitsbergen, Svalbard, are presented and interpreted. Accurate positioning was obtained using differential global positioning system (DGPS). Digital elevation models (DEMs) of the bedrock and surface were constructed. Comparison of DGPS data and surface DEMs with data from the topographic mappings from 1936 oblique stereoscopic aerial photographs and from Mission Russe in 1899-1901 shows that the Hornbreen and Hambergbreen surfaces are about 60-100 m thinner today in the upper part than at the beginning of the 20th century. Hornbreen has retreated by 13.5 km from the central part of the front, and Hambergbreen by 16km. All the fronts of the nearby east-coast glaciers in this area have retreated.The bedrock DEM shows that the Hornbreen and Hambergbreen beds lie at -25 to 25 m a.s.l. The combination of sub-sea-level fronts and increasing steepness of the glaciers suggests that the low-lying glaciated valley filled by Hornbreen and Hambergbreen may become a partially inundated ice-free isthmus within perhaps 100 years.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 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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