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The characteristics and formation of a high-arctic proglacial icing

journal contribution
posted on 21.08.2008, 14:52 by Richard Hodgkins, Martyn Tranter, Julian A. Dowdeswell
Well-known from permafrost hydrology, icings (naled or Aufeis) are also frequently encountered at the margins of high-latitude glaciers. The morphology of a proglacial icing at Scott Turnerbreen in the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is described, and the process of formation is considered in detail. Ground thermal-regime modelling indicates an equilibrium permafrost depth of at least 200 m in the studied catchment, and it appears unlikely that groundwater contributes to icing formation. Meltwater flow through ice-marginal drainage channels is accompanied by estimated heat fluxes of up to about 190 W m−2, suggesting that stored meltwater may continue to percolate through thawed sub-channel sediments when surface runoff is absent during winter. A hydraulic conductivity of 6.9 × 10−3 m s−1 is implied, which is consistent with other studies of glacier drainage systems. The long residence time of winter-draining meltwater, and solute rejection by refreezing water, account for high observed concentrations of solute in interstitial water in the icing. It has often been asserted that the presence of a proglacial icing indicates that a glacier is polythermal. However, as Scott Turnerbeen is entirely non-temperate, the presence of an icing cannot always be treated as a reliable guide to the thermal regime of a glacier.



  • Social Sciences


  • Geography and Environment


HODGKINS, R., TRANTER, M and DOWDESWELL, J.A., 2004. The characteristics and formation of a high-arctic proglacial icing. Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography, 86(3), pp.265- 275.


Published by Blackwell Publishing on behalf of Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography.

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This article is Closed Access. It was published in the journal, Geografiska Annaler: Series A, Physical Geography [© 2008 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography]. The definitive version is available at





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