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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

GOT_SURGE: GNSS observations of the developing surge on Kongsvegen

Awarded: NOK 79,999

In the coming century, dynamic ice loss from glaciers and ice sheets likely will represent the largest contribution to global sea level rise. Sudden changes in dynamic behavior (of which surging is an extreme end member) still are poorly understood. One of the reasons why glaciologists have been unable to develop a robust understanding of how and why glaciers surge is because there is a paucity of direct observations, particularly in the earliest phase of surging. Because surges are infrequent and unpredictable, most are already in progress by the time they are detected, so we are not able to monitor the conditions that cause the surge to begin. At Kongsvegen, a glacier in northwestern Spitsbergen that last surged in 1948, we are given an exceptional opportunity to document the transition from quiescence to full surge. Long-term GNSS measurements on Kongsvegen show an acceleration in ice velocities since 2014, suggesting that a full surge is imminent. To capitalize on this unique opportunity to observe the beginning of a surge, Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) instruments have been installed at mass balance stakes along the length of Kongsvegen to collect velocity records with mm-precision capability. These GNSS data will provide a velocity record with a temporal resolution that is several orders of magnitude greater than that afforded by remote-sensing methods. As a result, the GNSS records may contain key information linking glacier velocity to changing environmental and boundary conditions. However, the GNSS stations must be serviced, and their data differentially corrected and analyzed. This AFG will give MSc. student EG an opportunity to conduct fieldwork to service the stations, process the GNSS data, and analyze these and older records, in order to document the dynamics of surge initiation.

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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum