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Elevation change, mass balance, dynamics and surging of Langjökull, Iceland from 1997 to 2007

  • ALLEN POPE (a1) (a2) (a3), IAN C. WILLIS (a1), FINNUR PÁLSSON (a4), NEIL S. ARNOLD (a1), W. GARETH REES (a1), HELGI BJÖRNSSON (a4) and LAUREN GREY (a1)...

Abstract

Glaciers and ice caps around the world are changing quickly, with surge-type behaviour superimposed upon climatic forcing. Here, we study Iceland's second largest ice cap, Langjökull, which has both surge- and non-surge-type outlets. By differencing elevation change with surface mass balance, we estimate the contribution of ice dynamics to elevation change. We use DEMs, in situ stake measurements, regional reanalyses and a mass-balance model to calculate the vertical ice velocity. Thus, we not only compare the geodetic, modelled and glaciological mass balances, but also map spatial variations in glacier dynamics. Maps of emergence and submergence velocity successfully highlight the 1998 surge and subsequent quiescence of one of Langjökull's outlets by visualizing both source and sink areas. In addition to observing the extent of traditional surge behaviour (i.e. mass transfer from the accumulation area to the ablation area followed by recharge of the source area), we see peripheral areas where the surge impinged upon an adjacent ridge and subsequently retreated. While mass balances are largely in good agreement, discrepancies between modelled and geodetic mass balance may be explained by inaccurate estimates of precipitation, saturated adiabatic lapse rate or degree-day factors. Nevertheless, the study was ultimately able to investigate dynamic surge behaviour in the absence of in situ measurements during the surge.

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Copyright

This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Corresponding author

Correspondence: Allen Pope <allen.pope@post.harvard.edu>

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