University of Oulu

Polythermal glacier studies in Svalbard determined by ground-penetrating radar

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Author: Pälli, Anja1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Faculty of Science, Department of Geosciences
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1 MB)
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Language: English
Published: 2003
Publish Date: 2003-11-15
Thesis type: Doctoral Dissertation
Defence Note: Academic Dissertation to be presented with the assent of the Faculty of Science, University of Oulu, for public discussion in the Auditorium GO101, Linnanmaa, on November 15th, 2003, at 12 noon.
Reviewer: Doctor Yuri Macheret
Associate Professor Cecilia Richardson-Näslund


The overall aim of this Thesis is to emphasise how Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) can be used in different glaciological studies: in mapping the inner structure, determining accumulation rates, estimating water contents, mapping drainage channels and superimposed ice. The Thesis also aims to improve current knowledge on Svalbard polythermal glaciers: their hydrothermal properties, drainage and behaviour in the changing climate.

Six glaciers were studied: four tidewater glaciers, one ice-field and one valley glacier. The hydrothermal structure of Hansbreen was mapped with GPR at high lateral and vertical resolution. The hydrothermal structure of the glacier is highly variable and complex. In general the temperate ice contains 1-2% water, but water contents of about 4% are associated with englacial water channels or water-filled near surface crevasses or moulins. Hydrothermal properties determined from detailed GPR surveys of Hansbreen, Werenskioldbreen, Nordenskjöldbreen and Kongsvegen show similar structures such as foliations and superimposed ice in the firn-ice transition area, though with different emphasis on each glacier. The overall extent of superimposed ice was difficult to measure accurately because of the limited resolution and the sporadic nature of the reflections. However there is encouraging similarity between GPR and satellite imagery of superimposed ice extent. Hydraulic geometry models of the subglacial hydrology of Hansbreen and Werenskioldbreen suggest that the water pressure is generally close to ice-overburden pressure but varies greatly depending on local conditions.

GPR data and data from three ice-cores were used to determine spatial and temporal variation of snow accumulation on a longitudinal profile of Nordenskjöldbreen. Spatial variations of 40-60% in snow accumulation over short distances along the profile were observed. The results indicate a 12% increase in accumulation rate during the late 1980s and 1990s. Hornbreen and Hambergbreen and several surrounding glaciers in southern Svalbard were mapped with GPR together with a DGPS (Differential Global Positioning System) in 2000. The data were compared to glacier surface height and glacier front length data from 1936 and 1901. The results show that the low-lying glaciated valley filled with Hornbreen and Hambergbreen may become a partially inundated ice-free isthmus within the next 100-150 years.

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Series: Acta Universitatis Ouluensis. A, Scientiae rerum naturalium
ISSN-E: 1796-220X
ISBN: 951-42-7177-7
ISBN Print: 951-42-7176-9
Issue: 406
Copyright information: © University of Oulu, 2003. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.