Abstract

A total of 204 surging glaciers has been identified in western North America. These glaciers surge repeatedly and probably with uniform periods (from about 15 to greater than 100 years). Ice flow rates during the active phase may range from about 150 m/year to > 6 km/year, and horizontal displacements may range from < 1 to > 11 km. Ice reservoir and ice receiving areas can be defined for surging glaciers, and the reservoir area does not necessarily coincide with the accumulation area. Glaciers of all shapes, sizes, and longitudinal profiles can surge, and no unusual "ice dams" or bedrock constrictions are evident. Surges occur in many different climatic, tectonic, and geologic environments, but only in certain limited areas (mainly in the Alaska, eastern Wrangell, and St. Elias mountains). Three types of surging glaciers are defined: (I) large to moderate-sized glaciers with large displacements and very fast flow, (II) large to moderate glaciers with moderate displacements and flow rates, and (III) small glaciers with small displacements and moderate to fast flow rates. All three types involve an inherent instability which is self-triggered at regular intervals, but with Type I surges an additional (unknown) mechanism produces the very high flow rates.

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