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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Linking past and present surge dynamics at Borebreen from drone surveys

Awarded: NOK 79,999

Svalbard has a high density of surging glaciers – marine and terrestrial glaciers which undergo cyclical changes between fast (active) and slow (quiescence) flow. During the active phase, ice discharge accelerates and mass loss increases which significantly impacts glacier mass balance. However, the process of mass loss through iceberg calving during an active surge is not well understood and may differ from non-surging glaciers due to the impact of a steepened calving front which has the potential to initiate rapid glacier retreat. Investigations into these systems have traditionally been divided into two research clusters 1) contemporary processes by the glaciological community and 2) paleo-processes/reconstructions by the Quaternary community. Bridging the gap between the two can be challenging due to the temporal scales of data (daily versus centennial to millennial), but integration has the powerful potential to open new scientific insights into surging glacier systems. This project will adopt a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to integrate contemporary terminus observations at an actively surging glacier with the long-term landform record (i.e., Late Holocene pre-observational era) using high resolution drone surveys. Calving processes and styles will be assessed through 3D changes across the steep calving front of Borebreen before (April) and after (September) the onset of melt to expose the impact of seasonal velocity changes on calving. Landforms diagnostic of past surge activity (e.g. crevasse squeeze ridges) will be mapped from the drone surveys to deduce past crevasse patterns and ice flow acceleration. This will allow us to directly relate past dynamics to the contemporary conditions, aiding predictions of how their behaviour (e.g., increase/decrease in surging, sustained rapid retreat) may change given the prediction of a warmer and wetter Arctic over the next 100 years.

Funding scheme:

SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Thematic Areas and Topics