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Short-term velocity variations on Hansbreen, a tidewater glacier in Spitsbergen

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Spatial and temporal variations of the flow of Hansbreen, a tidewater glacier in southern Spitsbergen, Svalbard, are investigated. During summer 1999, surface flow velocities were measured in the ablation zone of Hansbreen with a temporal resolution of 3–4 hours. Short events with strongly increased surface velocities and a typical duration of 1–2 days were observed. These "speed-up events" are related to periods of strongly increased water input to the glacier, due to rainfall or enhanced surface melt. A close relation is found between the surface velocities and water pressure recorded in a moulin. However, there are indications from a short time lag between velocity and water-pressure peak as well as from observed vertical surface uplifts that basal motion is related to basal water storage rather than directly to basal water pressure. The observed short-term velocity variations and associated processes on Hansbreen are very similar to those observed on land-based valley glaciers and suggest that the relevant mechanisms and physical processes that control the flow and its temporal variations are similar. In contrast to the flow of land-based glaciers, sliding velocities on Hansbreen are observed to be high all year round and velocities increase towards the calving front.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: June 1, 2004

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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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