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Surging glaciers in Spitsbergen

Several of Spitsbergen’s glaciers are on the move. A rather sudden type of advance called glacial surge is linked to the internal mechanics of ice movement. These glaciers are building up ice volume in the catchment area over decades to discharge this within relatively short time (typically 1-2 years), something that involves rapid movement of up to an impressive 10 meters per day or even more. As a result, surging glaciers are usually strongly crevassed.

This behaviour has recently been observed at Penckbreen (Van Keulenfjord) and Aavaatsmarkbreen. It is also currently known from other Svalbard glaciers. Around 2014, the advance of parts of the ice cap Austfonna has attracted attention.

The surge behaviour is linked to ice dynamics and not to a climatically induced positive mass balance. Altogether, Spitsbergen’s glaciers are suffering from a significant loss of ice volume, with a tendency to increasing speed of loss in recent years due to climate change.

Surging glaciers in Spitsbergen – Penckbreen Surge

The surging glacier Penckbreen (foto April 2016 © Stig Onarheim, with friendly permission).

Penckbreen surge

Source: Feltlogg, Svalbardglaciers.org.

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last modification: 2016-08-12 · copyright: Rolf Stange
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