Comfortlessbreen is a large valley glacier that began a dramatic surge in April 2008, following many decades of recession. Despite 16 years of continued recession between 1992 and the onset of the surge, the glacier is now more advanced than before 1992. All of these photographs of the surge of Comfortlessbreen were taken on 14 July 2009, and are supplemented by some older images for comparison.
Aerial view across the gently graded stagnant snout of Uvêrsbreen (foreground) towards the surging Comfortlessbreen. Note the contrasting steep crevassed terminus of the latter and the lakes that have formed in front of it (MH).
The steep, heavily crevassed nature of the advancing terminus is clearly visible. The lake at the left foreground drains into a marine embayment via rapids across the rock bar in the middle of the picture. Note also the relict alluvial fan at the right (MH).
Aerial telephoto of the calving margin of Comfortlessbreen where it enters an expanding lake. The ice-cored alluvial plain at the bottom is collapsing into this lake (MH).
Aerial telephoto of three alluvial fans in one of the new lakes created by the surge of Comfortlessbreen. The glacier terminus here is less fractured than elsewhere, but is nevertheless riven by large longitudinal crevasses (MH).
Aerial view of the terminus of surging Comfortlessbreen looking up the full length of the glacier from above the fjord of Engelskbukta. Note the long spit of sand and gravel extending from the left towards the glacier front. The brown colouration in the fjord indicates suspended sediment associated with meltwater from the glacier (MH).
A similar view from 1978: Crevasses are restricted to proximity to the calving ice margin. The spit on the right was shorter and less prominent. Also prominent is the thrust moraine complex and braided river plain formed by the river from Uvêrsbreen. The river course switched in the early 1990s, to flow along the front of Comfortlessbreen, as it does today (MH).
Telephoto of the advancing front of Comfortlessbreen, illustrating large amounts of debris incorporation from the bed via thrust planes. The glacier is pushing into an alluvial plain underlain by old dead glacier ice (JA).
The SW margin of Comfortlessbreen is advancing into the fjord of Engelskbukta, pushing up a ridge of glaciomarine sediment as it does so. The tip of the spit at the left is truncated as flow of river water is increasingly constrained by the surging ice (JA).
Looking away from Comfortlessbreen towards its Little Ice Age moraines (c. 1900AD). These moraines were produced by thrusting of glacial and glaciofluvial sediment. The question is: will the surging glacier front over-ride these moraines over the next few years? (MH).
Between the old moraines of Comfortlessbreen and the surging ice margin lies an extensive alluvial plain derived from the adjacent glacier Uvêrsbreen. The surge has destabilised this area by creating an ice-marginal lake and revealing a complete sheet of buried glacier ice, in which thrusts are clearly visible. The thickness of the overlying alluvium is estimated to be 3-5 metres (MH).
A wide-angle view of the surging front of Comfortlessbreen, illustrating the black ridge of glaciomarine sediment in front, an old alluvial fan system that emerged from a subglacial conduit (extending across the image to the right) and the sinuous ridge of an esker, now partly eroded by wave action (MH).
Telephoto of part of the esker illustrated in the previous picture, illustrating in detail the uneven layers of sand and gravel, originally deposited in a subglacial tunnel (MH).
The true left margin of surging Comfortlessbreen, where it impinges on an old lateral moraine. The broken ice indicates a zone of strong shear at the margin, and a considerable amount of debris-entrainment, notably by thrusting (MH).
The left-lateral margin of Comfortlessbreen as it impinges on the moraine. This image uniquely shows how a snow bank has become folded as the glacier advances into it (JA).
Filling of basal crevasses by subglacial till is assumed to be typical of surging glaciers, but rarely observed in practice. The left margin of Comfortlessbreen demonstrated one clear example of such a feature, but this does not appear to be the dominant process of debris-entrainment (MH).
The left-lateral margin is typically associated with wedges of sediment (here sandy gravel) that have been thrust upwards by a few metres. The thrust angle is demonstrated by the sharp exposure of clean ice. This process probably also takes place under the glacier (MH).
The impressive frontal face of surging Comfortlessbreen, albeit exaggerated by a telephoto lens. The heavily fractured face and large ridge of black glaciomarine mud, rise above the people standing of the old outwash gravel plain. The channel that separates this plain from the ice face is invisible in this photograph (JA).
Meltwater stream emerging near the true left margin of the glacier tongue (JA).
Aerial photograph taken looking west across the upper basin of Comfortlessbreen, illustrating its heavily crevassed surface beneath an extensive ice cover. Note the prominent bergschrund below the crags on the far side of the glacier; they are beginning to show the draw-down of the surface that is typical of surging glaciers. The peaks on the distant skyline are on Prins Karls Forland, off the west coast of Spitsbergen (MH).
Panoramic view of the terminus and left margin of Comfortlessbreen, showing the context of close-up views in this set of images. The contrast between the strongly sheared margin and the less broken inner ice is particularly noticeable (JA).
|The geomorphology and sedimentology of the area were described in a paper in the Scandinavian journal «Boreas» (Huddart, D. & Hambrey, M. J. 1996. Sedimentary and tectonic development of a high-arctic, thrust-moraine complex: Comfortlessbreen, Svalbard. Boreas 25, 227-243). Major geomorphological changes are visibly taking place as the surge proceeds. Further information about the surge, including a short time-lapse video has been prepared by Monica Sund of the University Centre in Svalbard.|