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A new glacier surge under way

23.06.08

 

In April UNIS glaciologist Monica Sund discovered crevasses in the Comfortlessbreen. This can be the beginning of a surge, and Sund will now monitor the changes in the glacier to obtain more knowledge of the surge dynamics that we still know very little about.

Text: Eva Therese Jenssen
Photos and illustration: Monica Sund

It was on a private snow scooter trip in late April that Ph.D. student Monica Sund discovered crevasses in the Comfortlessbreen, a glacier in Engelskbukta, just south of Ny-Ålesund (see map below).

Map by Monica Sund

– I saw crevasses that I hadn’t seen on that glacier earlier and after conferring with local people in Ny-Ålesund my guess was confirmed; the glacier is on the move, Sund says.

In late May Sund was flying over the Comfortlessbreen with helicopter.

The scientist could observe marginal crevasses more or less along the whole glacier in addition to transversal crevasses in the upper part and a small advance in the front, which has started to push some of the sediments in front of it.


Monitored by cameras

Sund put up two cameras on two mountain peaks on the Southwest side of the glacier in mid-June. One camera is focusing upward the glacier, the other one downward. The cameras are powered by battery and sun panels and will take photos every other hour.

 

Comfortlessbreen. Photo: Monica Sund
In May scientists could observe crevassing in the Comfortlessbreen, which indicates that the glacier is on the move. (Photo: Monica Sund).

 

So far the plan is to dismount the cameras in the fall, but Sund hopes that the cameras can stay over winter so that a more continuous time series of data can be collected.


- What I hope to see from the pictures taken is how the glacier is going from a smooth surface phase to a crevassed phase, in addition to how fast it moves and acceleration.


- This will provide us with more information about the dynamics of the start phase of a surge, which is a phase we know very little about today, Sund says.

 

Sund’s Ph.D. project “The dynamics of calving and surging glaciers” which is part of the International Polar Year project Glaciodyn, is looking at the calving and surging of Kronebreen.

 

Comfortlessbreen. Photo: Monica Sund
The Comfortlessbreen has already started moving forward, pushing sediments in front of it. ( Photo: Monica Sund).

 

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