Erosion and sediment transport in High Arctic rivers, Svalbard

  • Jim Bogen
  • Truls E. Bønsnes


This paper discusses sediment yield, sediment delivery and processes of erosion in rivers subject to High Arctic conditions in Svalbard. Long-term measurements reveal large variations between rivers and from year to year in each individual river. In the unglacierized catchment of Londonelva, annual sediment transport varied between 28 and 93 t/yr, with a mean sediment yield of 82.5 t/km2/yr. In the glacier-fed rivers Bayelva and Endalselva, the suspended sediment transport varied in the range of 5126 t/yr to 22797 t/yr during a 12-year period. A mean of 11 104 t/yr gave rise to a mean sediment yield of 359 t/km2/yr for the whole Bayelva catchment area. The sediment yield of the glacier and the moraine area was estimated at 586 t/km2/yr. A conceptual model used to interpret the long- and short-term patterns of sediment concentration in the meltwater from the glacier and erosion of the neoglacial moraines is proposed. Evidence is found that a proportion of the sediments are delivered by a network of englacial and subglacial channels that exist even in cold ice. Regression analyses of water discharge versus suspended sediment concentration gave significant correlations found to be associated with the stability of ice tunnels in cold ice. Large floods have been found to flush the waterways and exhaust the sediment sources. A long-term change in the exponent of regression lines is attributed to changes in sediment availability caused by flushing and expansion of tunnels and waterways by large floods and a subsequent slow deformation of them caused by the ice overburden and the glacier movement. A comparison of sediment yields from a number of polythermal and temperate glaciers in various areas showed large differences that were attributed primarily to bedrock susceptibility to erosion and, secondarily, to glaciological parameters.


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How to Cite
Bogen, J., & Bønsnes, T. E. (2003). Erosion and sediment transport in High Arctic rivers, Svalbard. Polar Research, 22(2), 175-189.
Research/review articles