The thermal structure of Hansbreen, a tidewater glacier in southern Spitsbergen, Svalbard

  • Jacek Jania
  • Dariusz Mochnacki
  • Bogdan Gądek


Ice temperature measurements were taken from three shallow and five deep (to bedrock) boreholes on Hansbreen, Svalbard, in selected years between 1988 and 1994. In general, results show a subpolar, polythermal structure. The glacier accumulation zone is of warm ice within the entire vertical profile except the uppermost layer of seasonal temperature fluctuations where there is an upper cold ice layer in the ablation zone which varies in thickness and may even be absent in the western lateral part. The upper layer of cold ice thins along the glacier centre-line from the equilibrium line altitude down to the glacier front. The depth of the pressure melting, indicating the base of the cold ice layer, was defined at the borehole measurement sites but was not manifested as an internal reflection horizon using multi-frequency radar methods. The isotherm lies about 20 m above a radar internal reflecting horizon near the equilibrium line altitude and about 40 m above it in the frontal part of the glacier. The internal reflection horizon almost certainly reflects the high water content within temperate ice and not the cold/temperate ice interface. At 10 m depth, the temperatures are 2–3°C higher than the calculated mean annual air temperatures, demonstrating the importance of meltwater refreezing on the release of latent heat.


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How to Cite
Jania, J., Mochnacki, D., & Gądek, B. (1996). The thermal structure of Hansbreen, a tidewater glacier in southern Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Polar Research, 15(1), 53-66.
Research/review articles