Controls on the distribution of surge-type glaciers in Svalbard

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We analyzed the possible controls on the distribution of surge-type glaciers in Svalbard using multivariate logit models including 504 glaciers and a large number of glacial and geological attributes. Specifically we examined the potential effect of geological boundaries, mass-balance conditions and thermal regime on surging. It was found that long glaciers with relatively steep slopes overlying young fine-grained sedimentary lithologies with orientations in a broad arc clockwise from northwest to southeast are most likely to be of surge type. No relation between lithological boundaries and surge potential could be established. Possible explanations for length being conducive to surging are transport-distance-related substrate properties, distance-related attenuation of longitudinal stresses and the possible relation between thermal regime and glacier size. Analysis of glaciers with recorded radio-echo sounding reveals that a polythermal regime, accumulation-area ratios close to balance and a large elevation span increase the surge potential. The logit models also enabled us to detect 19 new surge-type glaciers, to reclassify six glaciers as normal and to identify unusual surge-type glaciers. Our model results suggest that a polythermal regime and fine-grained potentially deformable beds are conducive to the surge potential of Svalbard glaciers.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2000

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  • The Journal of Glaciology is published six times per year. It accepts submissions from any discipline related to the study of snow and ice. All articles are peer reviewed. The Journal is included in the ISI Science Citation Index.
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