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How much do we really know about glacier surging?

  • William D. Harrison (a1) and Austin S. Post (a2)


Some of the ideas about glacier surging are considered, mainly but not entirely in the light of observations of temperate glaciers in Alaska, U.S.A., made within the last 15 years. Climate has an influence on surge recurrence interval. Climate and weather also affect surge initiation, termination and magnitude. Regional studies lead to the speculation that subglacial “till” plays a key role in surging, and it has been found under all surge-type glaciers studied so far, including Black Rapids and Variegated Glaciers, Alaska. In most of the glaciers studied, till deformation processes dominate the motion in quiescence. The linked-cavity model of surge triggering and rapid motion is not consistent with these observations, but the limited coverage of the observations does not rule it out under parts of the glaciers studied. The till observations in Alaska raise old questions about the interaction between till and the hydraulic systems of temperate glaciers. The role of stored water, which observations show to be active even in winter on Black Rapids Glacier, is noted.

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