On the ice-sediment-landform associations of surging glaciers on Svalbard
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Glacier surges are amongst the most dynamic of glaciological phenomena, but their controlling mechanisms remain incompletely understood. Surging glaciers are characterised by cyclical flow instabilities and the rapid transfer of ice to the ablation area, typically resulting in significant mass loss. The High-Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is one of several regions in the northern hemisphere which contain a high-density of surge-type glaciers, variously estimated to be between 13-90% of the total glacier population across the islands. Developing a better understanding of which of these figures, if either, is most realistic is important in the context of glacier dynamics and related contributions of small glaciers and ice caps to sea level change in the immediate future. This study presents detailed assessments of the margins of several known surge-type glaciers in Svalbard in order to update and improve the existing framework by which they are identified, and to provide a foundation for future reassessments of the surge-type glacier population based on distinct ice-sediment-landform assemblages. A range of techniques is utilised, including geomorphological and structural glaciological mapping, sedimentological analysis, basal ice descriptions, and stable isotope analysis. This work provides further insight into diagnostic indicators of surge behaviour preserved in basal ice sequences; provides links between surge dynamics and basal ice sequences, the glaciological structure and the landform record; and investigates the structural and tectonic development of surge-type glaciers. Based on this, surge landsystems are proposed for: (1) small valley glaciers, (2) large land-terminating glaciers, and (3) large tidewater glaciers. It is suggested that these three landsystems, with some variability, broadly characterise the geomorphology of the vast majority of known Svalbard surge-type glaciers and, in conjunction with structural glaciological and basal ice investigations where relevant, may allow previously unknown surge-type glaciers to be identified in the field, from aerial photographs, and on sea floor imagery. This work adds to the existing repertoire of modern analogues and the breadth of surging glacier landsystems, and provides a holistic basis for assessing possible palaeo-surge behaviour within the Quaternary record.
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