The beauty of the Glacier
AN INTRODUCTION TO SVALBARD
Svalbard is actually a little group
of islands in the far north,
it covers an area of 63 000km2
approximately 60% of this
covered by glaciers. The largest islands
Spitzbergen, Nordaustland, BarentsIsland,
The population is approximately divided as follows:
Lonyearbyen 2 040. (Norwegian capital)
Barentsburg 500 ( Russian mining )
Ny-Ålesund 40 ( Norwegian international research senter )
Sveagruva 250 (Norwegian miners that travel to and from
the mining village only living periodically on the island
Hornsund 8 ( Polish research station )
The main transport to Svalbard is by flight from Tromsø in the North
It is also interesting to note that there are no roads between
Svalbard is like nowhere else on earth, it is mystically
beautiful with it's ruggedness and special light. Which at this
time of the year,
early spring, only appears around lunch time for approximately two
hoursand then it is dark again.
Dark or not you will never be bored on Svalbard there is so much
going on if you keep your eyes and ears open. If nothing else you
will keep your wits about you just looking out for hungry lurking
Most activities here take place away from the villages just
adding to the excitement. You are adviced to engage the local
guides who know the area and are excellent bear chasers. No kidding!
You will never be told not to go out after dark here........caught
on? Good! And it's not advisable to get sozzled on bear or otherwise.
Alcohol and cold don't go too well together and it just adds a little
spice to the bears meal.
In the towns there are very good restaurants and bars, stay there
if you want to party.
This place is a magnet for scientists, astronomers, wildlife
enthusiasts amomgst others.
An article i read by Eva Therese Jenssen an informations consultant
for the university senter on Svalbardcaught my attention today.
I cannot translate the entire article but as i would like to share with
you a little of what i find interesting
i will use this to base my story to you.
I am not going to try to impress with great terminology because i just
can't!My story will come from my heart and i will write to you as i
If you on the otherhand want to contribute with your own knowledge
please do, i read everything and this is also
a great way for learning.
A GLACIER AWAKENS ON SVALBARD
Jenssen states that glaciers on Svalbard are not like glaciers on the
mainland. These are known to move ata slow rate for as long as several
hundreds of years and suddenly out of the blue get themselves into top
gear and can slide several kilometers in only a few short years.
After some research on the net i learned that this also goes under
the name of "The galloping glacier" isn't that just great? This is
is happening in some glaciers around the world but not all of them.
I wanted to know why. Why do some behave in this way and others not?
According to Walter A. Wood who wrote about the surge of Steel Glacier
formerly known as Wolf Creek Glacier.
The hundredfold speedup in glacier motion in a surge is supposedly
caused by the build up of high water pressure in the basal passageway
system, which is made possible by a fundamental and pervasive change
in the geometry and water-transport characteristic of this system.
Wood interestingly points out that volcanic eruptions, Avalanches and
earthquakes are all dramatic natural events which attract attention and
interest of a broad segment of the lay community.
Avalanches and volcanic eruptions are eye catching with their immense
power and beauty but more often than not they draw attention when they
cause disruption to the work and creations of man. This is so true,
there are many natural fantastic happenings around the world but if it
doesn't cost us anything we are at risk of missing the priviledge
I can also interprate this as « putting your money where your mouth
is » if it costs it hurts.
The glacier surge is also a dramatic natural event that hasn't been
too much in focus, There has been no real known threat to society
before the movement of the Italian glacier in 2001 the Belvedere
glacier ( Monte Rosa Italien Alps ) was reported to undergo a
surge-type movement with speeds of up to 200m/yr versus 30m/yr
measured the previous year.
The full article can be read at:www.cosis.net
A little mountain village came under threat of being washed away
and was evacuated.
In mountain glaciers ice flows in response to the mass of ice
involved, gravity and the slope of the glacier .
The glacier receives it's nourishment in the form of snow to sustain
it's advance.If climate changes this supply of nourishment under
correctconditions also changes. Variations in climate will affect the
so called"normal flow"
In recent years scientists are recording the increase in the
amount of glaciers accelaration in their rates of flow.
These surge type glaciers are geographically clustered and one
particularily concentrated cluster is found in the Svalbard
Glacier surges may provide useful insight into the expected
behaviour of ice streams under the influence of a changing climate.
Jenssen further states that there is increasing curiosity around
climate changes she mentions further that the glaciers are getting
extra special attention especially as research has shown that they
are shrinking, reducing in overall size.
In other countries there has been some speculation that the increase
in the amount of "Galloping glacier" .....surge glaciers awakening
could be linked toclimate changes and global warming.
Jenssen interviewed Monica Sund who is a student of glaciology at the
university of Svalbard, who makes it clear that the surge activity
and the shrinking of the glaciers are both connected. Although the
shrinking can be affected by climate change it is also a normal part
of the surge activity. When the galloping slide ends, the glacier
naturally pulls back and returns to a slow gradual slide.
A new surge in svalbard
A study has now ben started in Svalbard where a surge event will be
recorded from start to finish. UNIS have recorded the
increased movement in one of their glaciers. They believe that a
surge is awakening.
The surface of the glacier in question has over a short period of
time started to break up and larger areas have started to move
The two greatest recorded surges in Svalbard happened around
the same time. Bråsvellbreen slid between 1936 and 1938 .
30 kilometers width of gacier slid 15 kilometers down during the 2 year
Negribreen travelled with a width of 15kilometers down 12 kilometers
out into Storfjorden during the period of one year between 1935 and 1936.
In recent times at the beginning of 1900 Fridtjovbreen in
Nan Mijenfjorden on Spitzbergen began to break up at such an incredible
pace making it dangerous to reach.
It is only now in 2008 that the movement has stopped and the glacier
is receding that scientists can once again safely reach this area to do
It will be exciting to folow the path of this new glacial surge, only
time will tell how far and fast it travels.