Ice Thickness and Basal Conditions of Vestfonna Ice Cap, Eastern Svalbard

Rickard Pettersson*, Poul Christoffersen, Julian A. Dowdeswell, Veijo A. Pohjola, Alun Hubbard, Tazio Strozzi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (SciVal)


We combined ground-based pulsed radar data collected in 2008-2009 with airborne radio-echo sounding data acquired in 1983 and 1986 over Vestfonna ice cap, Svalbard. The airborne dataset mainly covers the fast-flowing outlet glaciers and the marginal zone, while the ground-based data explicitly cover the interior part of the ice cap. The data presented here are thus the first complete estimate of bed topography and ice thickness. The subglacial landscape undulates with elevations between -160 and +410m above sea level. The mean ice thickness is 186m and the total ice area and volume are 2402km2 and 442±0.6km3, respectively. This is a much smaller volume than those derived from empirical volume-area scaling relationships currently used to estimate regional-to-global glacier volumes. This difference may depend on local conditions for Vestfonna and emphasizes the need to include more volume observations in the derivations of volume-area scaling parameters. We also derive basal reflectivity as a proxy for thermal conditions at the bed. Basal reflectivity values suggest that fast-flowing outlet glaciers are underlain by temperate conditions. The geometric boundaries and basal conditions for Vestfonna will be critical additions to the development of numerical models of the ice cap and to the estimation of more accurate area-volume scaling parameters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)311-322
Number of pages12
JournalGeografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


  • Bed topography
  • Radar
  • Radio-echo sounding
  • Subglacial bed conditions
  • Svalbard
  • Vestfonna


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