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Temporal variations in flow velocity at Finsterwalderbreen, a Svalbard surge-type glacier

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Inter- and intra-annual velocity variations are well known on alpine glaciers, but their importance for Arctic glaciers has only been recognized more recently. This paper presents flow velocity data from Finsterwalderbreen, a 35 km2 polythermal surge-type glacier in southern Svalbard that is presently ∼100 years into its quiescent phase. Field measurements of glacier surface velocities are available from 1950–52 and 1994–97, and mean velocities for the last decade are estimated for the lower glacier using cables drilled to the glacier bed. These velocities show substantial seasonal variations indicating that basal sliding is an important component of surface velocities and interannual fluctuations of up to 75%, possibly indicating variations in subglacial water storage. Several lines of evidence indicate that this glacier has an extensive subglacial hydrological system, generally considered to be a prerequisite for surge-type glaciers, which is at least partly pressurized. Information on surface morphology from 1898 onwards shows that the glacier has experienced continuous retreat since the last surge in about 1910, and has now retreated ∼1.5 km further back than its previous pre-surge position in 1898. Tracking of moraine loops on terrestrial and aerial photographs acquired over a 100 year period indicates that the surge period of Finsterwalderbreen may be lengthening in response to climate changes.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2005-08-01

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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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