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Elevation changes measured on Svalbard glaciers and ice caps from airborne laser data

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Precise airborne laser surveys were conducted during spring in 1996 and 2002 on 17 ice caps and glaciers in the Svalbard archipelago covering the islands of Spitsbergen and Nordaustlandet. We present the derived elevation changes. Lower-elevation glaciers in south Spitsbergen show the largest thinning rates of ∼0.5 m a−1, while some of the higher, more northerly ice caps appear to be close to balance. The pattern of elevation change is complex, however, due to several factors including glacier aspect, microclimatological influences and the high natural annual variability in local accumulation and ablation rates. Anomalous changes were observed on Fridtjovbreen, which started surging in 1996, at the start of the measurement period. On this glacier, thinning (of > 0.6 m a−1) was observed in the accumulation area, coincident with thickening at lower elevations. Asymmetric thinning was found on two ice caps on Nordaustlandet, with the largest values on the eastern side of Vestfonna but the western slopes of Vegafonna. The mean elevation change for all ice masses was −0.19 m a−1 w.e., which is 1.6 times the net mass-balance value determined for the last 30 years. Using mass-balance sensitivity estimates for Svalbard suggests that the implied increase in negative balance is linked to warmer air temperatures in the late 1990s. Multiple linear regression suggests that mass balance is most closely correlated with latitude, rather than mean altitude or longitude.

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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