The structural, geometric and volumetric changes of a polythermal Arctic glacier during a surge cycleComfortlessbreen, Svalbard

Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)162-177
Number of pages15
JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
Issue number2
Early online date12 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2016
Show download statistics
View graph of relations
Citation formats


Various parameters of the most recent surge of the polythermal glacier Comfortlessbreen in northwest Svalbard, have been assessed through a combination of remote sensing and ground observations. Analysis of a digital elevation model time-series shows a marked change in the geometry of the glacier from quiescence (1990 and earlier) into the late surge phase (2009). The transfer of 0.74 km3 of ice caused up to 80 m of surface drawdown in the reservoir area, above the equilibrium line, whilst ice built up in a spatially concentrated manner in the receiving zone, below the equilibrium line. A ramp of ice, c. 100 m above quiescent level, developed in the lower reaches of the glacier late in the surge. Also in the lower reaches of the glacier, structures attributable to the passage of a kinematic wave are identified and the migration of a surge front on the glacier is thus inferred. In a conceptual model, we consider that a bend in the valley, in which the glacier resides, and convergence with tributary glaciers, to be significant factors in the style of surge evolution. Their flow-restrictive interference results in slow initial mass-transfer and the growth of a surge front within 3–4 km of the terminus. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • surge, glacier structure, geometric changes, Comfortlessbreen, Svalbard