Analyses of a surging outlet glacier of Vatnajökull ice cap, Iceland
Abstract:Many of the large outlet glaciers of Vatnajökull ice cap, Iceland, have a history of regular surges. The mass transport during surges can be up to 25% of the total ice flux. This is a considerable amount that affects the whole ice cap, the location of the ice divides, the flow field and the size and shape of the ice cap. Data from the surging outlet Dyngjujökull, on the northern side of Vatnajökull, which surged during the period 1998–2000, are presented: surface elevation changes, displacement and total mass tr ansport. The total gain in ice volume in the receiving area, due to the surge, is considerably smaller than the loss in the reservoir area. The difference is mainly due to enhanced melting rates on the larger surface area of the crevassed glacier surface, and increased turbulent fluxes above the surface, but also due to increased frictional melting at the bed during the surge. A two-dimensional vertically integrated numerical flow model, of standard shallow-ice approximation type, is used to show that a modeled glacier that is similar in size to Dyngjujökull and subject to the same mass balance has three times higher velocities than the measured velocity during the quiescent phase. Adding surges in the numerical model, by periodically increasing the sliding velocity, causes the glacier to retreat and oscillate around a smaller state when subject to the same mass-balance regime. Lowering the equilibrium line by 50 m lets the modeled surging glacier oscillate around a size similar to that of the present glacier, indicating that surging is an efficient long-term ablation mechanism.
Document Type: Research Article
Publication date: August 1, 2005
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