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Global change and paraglacial morphodynamic modification in Svalbard

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Svalbard belongs to the polar oceanic environment that records contemporary Global Change with an acute sensitivity. In a periglacial context, runoff, an active azonal erosion process, sets itself at the top of the morphogenic hierarchy in a polar environment, relegating glacial and periglacial cold-related processes to a lesser level of influence. In Svalbard, since the end of the Little Ice Age, sandurs record morphological manifestations of runoff water coming from melting glaciers. Remote sensing data (SPOT XSP), together with precise field observation in the Brøgger peninsula (79° N, 12° E), provide an efficient method to show the changes in these outwash plains. In this paper, a method for cartography and acquisition of field data is introduced, which is founded on a systematic non-aligned survey. The morphodynamic results show a large prograding shoreline was observed at the down sides of the sandurs, which gain ground over the space occupied by the fjords owing to a substantial amount of sediments. These sediments are carried by flowing water that feeds off glacier meltwater, consecutive to the climatic warming. Also, some upperparts of sandurs stabilize themselves after drying and promote vegetation succession. In sum, within this paraglacial context, runoff is the principal factor of evolution of Svalbard landscapes.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: November 20, 2002

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