Geometry changes on Svalbard glaciers: mass-balance or dynamic response?

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Abstract:

The geometry of glaciers is affected by both the mass balance and the dynamics. We present repeated GPS measurements of longitudinal altitude profiles on three glaciers in Svalbard and show that surface altitude changes alone cannot be used to assess the mass balance. The three measured glaciers are in different dynamic modes, and the observed changes in geometry are strongly affected by the dynamics. Nordenskiƶldbreen shows no significant change in the geometry, indicating that the mass balance is in steady state with the dynamics. On Amundsenisen the surface has lowered by 1.5–2.0 m a−1 in the lower part of the accumulation area at 520–550 m a.s.l., indicating that the ice flux is higher than the mass-balance input, probably due to a surge advance of the glacier further downstream affecting the higher part of the drainage area. On Kongsvegen the opposite situation was found. Here the geometry of the profile showed a clear build-up of 0.5 m a−1 in the accumulation area and a lowering of 1 m a−1 in the lower part of the ablation area. The ice velocity is very low, giving a negligible vertical velocity component and an ice flux that is far smaller than the mass-balance flux, indicating that the glacier is building up towards a surge advance. Our results show that if mapping of height changes is to be used to monitor the response of the glaciers to climate change, both surface net mass-balance data and dynamic data are needed.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3189/172756405781812763

Publication date: August 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • 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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