INTEGRAL - Study Areas and Glaciers

In the INTEGRAL project, main emphasis is put on rheological studies of large European tidewater glaciers, i.e. glaciers extending into the sea and forming ice coasts. Several glaciers ending in fresh-water lakes, e.g. Unteraargletscher in Bernese Alps and Storglombreen in the Svartisen test site, as well as Pasterze Glacier in Eastern Alps (all associated with hydro-power production) will be also considered.

Study area / glacier


Geographic location




North Novaya Zemlya


54.0°E, 77.0°N

69.0°E, 74.0°N


Shokal′skogo TWG


61.5°E, 76.4°N

63.0°E, 76.0°N


Austfonna Ice Dome


17.0°E, 80.5°N

28.0°E, 78.5°N


Kongsvegen & Kronebreen


12.0°E, 79.5°N

15.0°E, 78.5°N


Franz Josef Land


44.5°E, 82.0°N

65.5°E, 79.5°N


Jan Mayen Island


9.3°W, 71.2°N

7.6°E, 70.6°N


Svartisen Ice Caps


13.2°E, 66.8°N

14.8°E, 66.4°N

High, test site

Pasterze Glacier


12.6°E, 47.3°N

12.9°E, 47.0°N

Medium, test site

Unteraar Glacier


8.0°E, 46.7°N

8.5°E, 46.4°N

Medium, test site

North Novaya Zemlya (Russia):

Shokal′skogo Tidewater Glacier

There are very few instrumental records documenting the rate of glacier ice flow in Novaya Zemlya. During the 2nd International Polar Year in 1932-33, M.M. Ermolaev tried to evaluate the velocity of Shokal′skogo Tidewater Glacier by analyzing the lateral displacement and deformation of coastal sea ice pushed away from the shore due to the glacier flow. Afterward, the velocity of Shokal′skogo was repeatedly surveyed in 1957-1958 and 1969. Measurements showed the steady increase of glacier velocity downstream from 9 m/a near the ice divide to 120 m/a at a distance of 2 km from the glacier front. The maximum velocity value at the glacier front is supposed to be about 150 m/a. The velocity of glacial flow increases notably in warm periods with the most intensive precipitation from July to September, and the summer motion rate is about 2.2 times greater than that in the coldest month. Thus, the expected maximum frontal velocity of Shokal′skogo Glacier in the warm season can be estimated at approximately 70 cm/day. The horizontal glacier velocity varies with depth so that the mean ice speed in a vertical cross-section is given as 90% of the velocity at the glacier surface. Mass-balance time series (1933 - 1969) of the Shokal′skogo Glacier were reconstructed by using meteorological records from the Russkaya Gavan′ Polar Station, which lies within a distance of 0.5 km from the glacier border. In 2001, The frontal velocity of this glacier was repeatedly surveyed during the field campaign in 2001 (Sharov et al. 2003). In north Novaya Zemlya, the behavior of Shokal′skogo Glacier is thus studied at best and the general character of its motion is reputed to be typical of other outlet glaciers in this archipelago.

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Svalbard (Norway):

Austfonna Ice Dome
Kongsvegen & Kronebreen Tidewater Glaciers

In the Svalbard archipelago, the number of glaciers entering the sea (10 ice caps and 201 outlet glaciers) is smaller and the total length of ice coasts is shorter, albeit the total glacial area (35,100 km², with Kvit°ya Island) and the overall mean ice thickness (220 m) are somewhat larger than in FJL. The glacier distribution of Svalbard is characterized by distinct asymmetry and the total area of outlet glaciers flowing toward the sea is twice larger than that of glaciers flowing inland (Troitsky et al. 1975). Our recent cartometric estimations showed that the total length of ice coasts in Svalbard was reduced by 14 % in the past 50 years. Typical velocities of 50 - 80 m/a at fronts of Svalbard's tidewater glaciers are relatively low. Most tidewater glaciers in the Svalbard archipelago are of surging type, however, and demonstrate periodically a short-term increase in ice flow velocities up to several meters per day. Frontal velocities of ice flow in Austfonna achieved, for example, 140 m/a (Dowdeswell et al. 1999).

Austfonna Ice Dome (8,120 km²) in northeast Svalbard is the most prominent ice cap in the archipelago with the mean ice thickness of ca. 300 m. This is the 3d largest European glacier after Main Ice Sheet in Novaya Zemlya and Vatnaj÷kull (8,500 km²) in Iceland . In the 1980-s, the total length of its seaward margins was 251 km. The ice cap margin was first covered by oblique photographs in 1938 and 1956, whereas vertical aerial images were performed in 1969, 1970, 1971, 1977 and 1990, though some of the earlier surveys only covered parts of AID. Airborne radio echo sounding carried out in the 1980s by the Norwegian Polar Institute enabled the bedrock topography to be mapped and an ice thickness up to 560 m to be measured (Dowdeswell et al. 1984, Dowdeswell et al. 1986). The same study found approximately 28% of the bedrock to be below the sea level. By reanalysing the results of 60 MHz airborne radar investigations carried out in the 1980s, which indicated the presence of deep valleys or troughs under each of the fast flowing units detected by the more recent study, the authors concluded that fast glacier flow is likely due to melting induced basal sliding. Basins where past surges have led to thinning and low ice-surface slopes would instead be frozen to the bedrock and their slow movement mainly due to internal deformation. For Basin 3 too, however, there is evidence of past surges, which are not documented to have occurred at a number of nearby outlets. Previous studies based on repeated topographical surveys of a stake network installed on the Basin 5 found ice surface velocities up to 47 m/yr (Dowdeswell et al. 1999).

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Franz Josef Land (Russia):

Franz Josef Land (FJL), the northernmost part of the European arctic terra firma, hosts the largest cluster of tidewater glaciers including 245 ice caps (The total number of ice caps in FJL is 347; 102 of them have no maritime margins (Vinogradov et al. 1965)) with slow moving or stagnant seaward margins, and 488 fast moving outlet glaciers draining ice from ice caps into the sea and producing icebergs. Ice shelves are seldom, but not improbable (Dowdeswell et al. 1994). In the FJL archipelago, glaciers occupy 55 from ca. 190 islands and the glacierized coastline extends for ca. 2520 km. The fronts of active outlet glaciers constitute approx. 59 % of the ice coast and contemporary topographic maps and hydrographic charts show more than half of the calving ice coasts by dashed lines, i.e. as uncertain coastlines. Maximum frontal velocities of tidewater glaciers reach 250 (Impetuous Glacier) and even 400 m/a (Karo Glacier). There is some evidence supporting a hypothesis about the presence of surging glaciers (Eastern, Impetuous et al.) in the FJL archipelago. The total areal extent of glaciation in FJL exceeds 13,500 km² and the mean ice thickness appears to be close to 180 m. The Southern Glacial Complex covering ca. 2,150 km² on Prince George Land is regarded as the largest ice mass in the archipelago. Renowned Glacier is the largest outlet glacier in FJL occupying ca. 380 km² on Wilczek Land.

There are only very few data on ice thickness and ice flow velocities at glacier fronts, and the rate of change in ice flow and thickness in FJL is practically unidentified. All facts about the changes in ice thickness and velocities in marginal parts of tidewater glaciers found by the author resulted from single measurements performed on Hooker Island. Repeated surveys in the marginal part of Sedov Outlet Glacier have shown its thinning from 42 to 31 meters during the period 1948 - 1958 and the average rate of thinning was estimated at 1m/a. Tachometric surveys at the same glacier in 1947/49 and 1957/59 revealed a decrease in maximum velocities from 70 to 50 m/a. Studies performed at Hooker Island showed that on average, approx. 1x106 m³ of ice was lost each year from 1 kilometre of ice coast due to marine abrasion and calving. The extrapolation of this result to the whole archipelago gave approx. 2.3 x109 tons of annual ice wastage at all glacier fronts in the late 1950s (Grosswald et al. 1973).

Although the ice thickness in some places of FJL is insufficient to hide broad features of underlying relief, the character of bedrock topography controlling ice movements in the archipelago was practically unknown until recently. Airborne radio-echo sounding of the ice caps on FJL in 1994 gave new insight into the structure of the land below and allowed some ice-flow features to be reliably interpreted. It has been revealed that several large ice caps in FJL, e.g. Vostok-1 and Vostok-4, have submerged beds below the present sea level (Dowdeswell et al. 1994). It is supposed that, in the nearest future, such ice coasts will demonstrate the highest rates of change.

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Jan Mayen Island (Norway):

Several relatively small tidewater glaciers can be found on Jan Mayen Island (Norway). The total area of glaciation on Jan Mayen makes up 120 km² and maximum glacier velocities attain 120 m/a. According to our estimations using available topographic maps and spaceborne imagery, the length of ice coasts at this island has decreased from 3.5 to 3.1 km (-11 %) during the past 50 years. It is worth noting that during the same period of observations the length of ice coasts in the Asian Arctic (Severnaya Zemlya, Ushakova and De Long islands) reduced only for 2 % (Sharov 2004).

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Svartisen Ice Caps (Norway):

The Svartisen ice caps (13°59′ E; 66°40′ N, 221 km² and 148 km²) are situated in a maritime climate close to the Atlantic Coast in Nordland, Northern Norway. With a total area of 369 km², this is the second largest ice mass in Norway. The altitudinal range is from 7 to 1600 m a.s.l. Annual precipitation in the area is more than 2000 mm along the coast declining rapidly inland to less than 1000 mm on the eastern side of East Svartisen. In recent years several outlet glaciers of West Svartisen have experienced advances of the front position (indicating that the glacier has a positive mass balance and is growing) whereas several outlet glaciers from East Svartisen have experienced retreats over the same period. West Svartisen and East Svartisen have a range of glaciological data going back almost a century, such as changes in front position of two of the outlet glaciers of West Svartisen (Engabreen and Fondalsbreen) back to 1903 and 1906 respectively as well as meteorological data from a nearby meteorological station (Glomfjord) going back to 1920. Apart from changes in front position, the glaciological data includes mass balance measurements on Engabreen since 1970, as well as mass balance measurements on several of the other outlet glaciers and smaller glaciers for shorter periods., such as Storglombreen, which has an area of 60 km² and Svartisheibreen. There is aerial photography for the whole of Svartisen from 1968, 1985 and 2002, and other aerial photography exists for individual glaciers. Additional data sets include bottom topography for West Svartisen and front position maps from several outlets of East Svartisen. Svartisen is economically important to northern Norway. Meltwater from several glaciers is stored in a reservoir, much of the meltwater being transported to the reservoir by 100 km of tunnels beneath the glaciers. Water from the reservoir is used to power the Svartisen power plant which powers a 350 MW generator, enough to supply 80 000 households with electricity annually. Glaciers such as Engabreen in Western Svartisen and Austerdalsisen in Eastern Svartisen are popular tourist destinations and as such, contribute significantly to the local economy.

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Pasterze Glacier (Austria):

Pasterze is the largest glacier in Austria and is an important site for the hydropower production. The glacier length is about 9 km and the ice thickness reaches nearly 200 m. The glacier has been surveyed repeatedly since 1850-s. Numerous terrestrial and aerial photogrammetric as well as geophysical and tachometric surveys were performed in the area. Annual glacier velocities attain 5.7 m/a (1.5 cm/day), 18.2 m/a (5 cm/day) and > 31 m/a (8.5 cm/day) at heights of 2150, 2200 and 2400 m respectively (G.Lieb, personal communication 2003). Present geodetic surveys show a rapid glacier retreat with an average rate of about 20 m/a. Pasterze Glacier and Gro▀glockner, the highest mountain in Austria, lie within the territory of national park Hohe Tauern. Each year, ca. 1.5 million tourists visit this area being the most popular tourist destination in Austria.

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Unteraar Glacier (Switzerland):

Unteraargletscher is a temperate valley glacier situated in the Bernese Alps, Switzerland (Bauder 2001, Schuler 2002). Already in the first half of the 19th century, Unteraargletscher was object of scientific investigations. This pioneering work contributed substantially to our present understanding of glaciers. Since the 1920s systematic measurements of changes in surface elevation and displacement have been conducted. A comprehensive list of references to work related to Unteraargletscher can be found in (Zumbühl et al. 1988, Zumbühl et al. 1990). Today, Unteraargletscher belongs to the most comprehensively studied glaciers in the Alps.

Unteraargletscher is the common tongue of the two tributaries Lauteraar- and Finsteraargletscher (Schuler 2002). From the confluence zone at around 2400 m a.s.l., Unteraargletscher extends about 6 km eastwards with a mean width of 1 km and a slope of approximately 4░ (Figs. 4 and 5). The entire system of glaciers covers an area of 26 km2. The present terminus, about 1.5km from Lake Grimsel, is at an elevation of 1950m a.s.l., and the headwalls of the accumulation basins are surrounded by peaks up to 4274m a.s.l. The catchment area of Unteraargletscher is embedded in the central massif of the Alps, namely the Aare-massif. Despite the lack of detailed mass balance measurements, the present equilibrium-line altitude is estimated at about 2800m a.s.l. based on a comparison with other glaciers in the area and on an analysis of aerial photographs. A prominent feature of Unteraargletscher is the large ice-cored medial moraine which is formed by the convergence of the lateral moraines of Lauteraar- and Finsteraargletscher. The debris cover is typically 5 to 15 cm thick.

The bedrock topography of Unteraargletscher has been mapped by seismic reflection and radioecho soundings (Bauder 2001). Two seismic reflectors at different depth have been identified, where the upper one represents the true glacier bed and the lower one the surface of the underlying bedrock. The intervening layer consists of unconsolidated sedimentary material. Maximum ice-thickness of more than 400m is observed up-glacier of the junction on both tributaries, Lauteraargletscher and Finsteraargletscher. From there, the ice-body thins out but at a distance of 1.5 km from the terminus it is still about 200m thick.

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