Over 400 previously undocumented Svalbard surge-type glaciers identified
Department or Program
airborne sensing, crevasse, glacier dynamics, glacier surge, ice ridge, paleoclimate, aerial imagery, crevasse squeeze ridges, Svalbard
Identifying glaciers that exhibit surge-type behavior is important when using evidence of ice front fluctuations as a proxy for reconstructing past climate oscillations. This study identifies previously undocumented surge-type glaciers in Svalbard, based on the presence of crevasse squeeze ridges in glacier forelands. Crevasse squeeze ridges are landforms suggested to be unique to surging glacier land systems. Estimates vary greatly as to the actual percentage of surge-type glaciers in Svalbard, and consequently their distribution pattern is poorly understood. A detailed survey of recent (2008-2012), high-resolution aerial imagery from TopoSvalbard, provided by the Norwegian Polar Institute, allowed for a survey of all the glacier forelands in Svalbard. Before our study, 277 individual glaciers in Svalbard have been documented to exhibit surge behavior. By using crevasse squeeze ridges as indicators of surge behavior, we have identified 431 additional glaciers that have surged. We suggest that this is a modest value as the unique surge landforms were not visible in approximately one-third of the forelands with documented surge histories. Limits to the crevasse squeeze ridge technique are presented and potential controlling factors for crevasse squeeze ridge formation/preservation are discussed.
Farnsworth W.R., Ingólfsson Ó., Retelle M., and Schomacker A. (2016) Over 400 previously undocumented Svalbard surge-type glaciers identified. Geomorphology, 264: 52-60. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.geomorph.2016.03.025