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The initiation of glacier surging at Fridtjovbreen, Svalbard

  • Tavi Murray (a1), Adrian Luckman (a2), Tazio Strozzi (a2) (a3) and Anne-Marie Nuttall (a4)


Glacier surges in Svalbard have long durations and multi-year terminations, but much less is known regarding surge initiation in the archipelago. Fridtjovbreen, a 12 km long glacier in central Spitsbergen, advanced ∼ 2.8 km during a surge in the 1990s at a maximum rate of ∼ 4. 2 m d–1 . Differential dual-azimuth satellite radar interferometry (SRI) is used to produce ten snapshots of three-dimensional surface dynamics and four digital elevation models covering the period October 1991–October 1997. The glacier velocity rose slowly and uniformly until June 1995. It then increased dramatically to a measured maximum of ∼ 2.5 m d–1 during February and May 1996, and by October 1997 it had dropped. We attempt to evaluate errors in the calculated velocities. Systematic errors are evaluated using the apparent displacement of bedrock, ∼0.03 m d–1 . Errors arise from assumptions during processing, for example that ice-flow direction does not change during the surge. Two independent measurements using dual-azimuth processing show the mean absolute change in flow direction was ∼1.2°. This study covers fast-flow initiation and peak flow, but not the deceleration phase. The SRI observations show a progressive acceleration phase to the surge, with no evidence of a surge front propagating down-glacier.

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Annals of Glaciology
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