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Controls on glacier surging in Svalbard

  • Gordon S. Hamilton (a1) and Julian A. Dowdeswell (a2)

Abstract

The geographical distribution of surge-type glaciers worldwide displays a remarkably non-random pattern. Surge-type glaciers tend to be concentrated in certain glacierized areas and to be completely absent in others. This observation suggests that special conditions are required for surges to occur. However, the factors controlling the spatial occurrence of surge-type behaviour are not known. To investigate this problem we performed probability statistical analysis on a sample population of 615 glaciers in Svalbard. The probability that a glacier in the sample population is surge-type is 36.4%. Within the sampled area there is a spatial variation in the concentration of surge-type glaciers. Several geometric and environmental factors associated with glaciers in the sample population were measured and tested to determine if they are related to the probability of surging. Of the geometric factors tested (length, slope, elevation, orientation and presence or absence of tributaries), only glacier length is related to surging, with surge probability increasing with increasing length. Elevated probabilities of surging were also found for glaciers associated with sedimentary subglacial rocks and sub-polar thermal regimes. The distributions of related factors were used to predict the spatial distribution of surge-type glaciers. However, in each case the individual factors were unable to reproduce the observed pattern of surge-type glacier distribution.

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References

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