Surges of outlet glaciers from the Drangajökull ice cap, northwest Iceland

Skafti Brynjólfsson, Anders Schomacker, Niels J. Korsgaard, Ólafur Ingólfsson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


Surface elevation and volume changes of the Drangajökull surge-type glaciers, Reykjarfjarðarjökull and Leirufjarðarjökull, were studied by comparing digital elevation models that pre-date and post-date their most recent surges. Annual glacier-frontal measurements were used to estimate average ice velocities during the last surge of the glaciers. The observations show a distinct ice discharge, most of which was from the upper reservoir areas, down to the receiving areas during the surges. The surface draw-down in the reservoir areas was usually 10–30 m during the surges, while the thickening of the receiving areas was significantly more variable, on the order of 10–120 m. Despite a negative geodetic net mass balance derived from the digital elevation models, the reservoir areas have been gaining mass since the surge terminations. This surface thickening along with considerable ablation of the receiving areas will most likely return the glacier surface profiles to the pre-surge stage. Our results indicate that (a) greatest surface thinning in the upper reservoir areas of Drangajökull rather than proximal to the equilibrium line during Vatnajökull surges and (b) development of Drangajökull surges that resembles Svalbard surge-type glaciers rather than Vatnajökull surge-type glaciers. The contrasting surge characteristics could be explained by differences in glacier geometry, topography and substratum of the Drangajökull and Vatnajökull surge-type glaciers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)140-151
Number of pages12
JournalEarth and Planetary Science Letters
Publication statusPublished - 15 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • ArcGIS
  • Digital Elevation Model
  • glacier surges
  • Iceland
  • Svalbard

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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