Investigation of Surge-Type Glaciers in Svalbard
Hamilton, Gordon Stuart
University of Cambridge
Scott Polar Research Institute
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
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Hamilton, G. S. (1992). Investigation of Surge-Type Glaciers in Svalbard (Doctoral thesis). https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.27506
The factors affecting the distribution of surge-type glaciers and the causes of the surge mechanism are not fully understood. Statistical analyses of glaciers in Svalbard have been used to identify characteristics which are related to surging. Field experiments were undertaken on Bjuvbreen, a small surge-type glacier in central Spitsbergen, to determine the dynamics and hydrology of the glacier during its quiescent phase. The probability that a glacier in the Svalbard sample population was surge-type was 36·4%. The probability varied spatially within the sample area. Glaciers resting on sedimentary tocks had a greater probability of being surge-type compared to those overlying igneous or metamorphic rocks. The probability of surging was also increased in glaciers with a two-layered thermal structure as indicated by radio echo sounding. Geometrical characteristics such as slope, orientation, curvature and the presence of tributaries were not related to surge-type behaviour, although long glaciers had a greater chance of being surge-type. Certain aspects of Kamb's and Fowler's theories of surging were not supported by the statistical analysis. Despite the associations between surging and certain characteristics, no single factor fully explained the observed geographical distribution of surge-type glaciers in Svalbard. Bjuvbreen is a small surge-type in its quiescent phase. Changes in the geometry of the glacier are occurring relatively slowly. This slow rate of change is a function the low accumulation rates on Svalbard glaciers. On the basis of a simple model, the next surge of Bjuvbreen is predicted to occur between .2022- 2055, indicating a comparatively long quiescent period of -90-130 years. Bjuvbreen is comprised of two dynamically distinct zones which are separated by a large bulge. The lower portion of the glacier is inactive and stagnating, in contrast to the active ice up.:.glacier from the bulge. The observed velocity of the active region was compared with various hydrological characteristics of the glacier. The inferred behaviour of water within the glacier seems to have some, although limited, influence on the ice motion. A spatially restricted drainage system is the probable reason for this limited influence of hydrology on glacier velocity.
Digitisation of this thesis was sponsored by Arcadia Fund, a charitable fund of Lisbet Rausing and Peter Baldwin.
This record's DOI: https://doi.org/10.17863/CAM.27506
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