2019 velocity map (data acquired between 12th and 25th January 2019)
The Arctic landscape of the Svalbard archipelago is 60% ice-covered, and is extensively travelled by locals, tourists and scientists. Apart from Polar bears and frostbite, crevasses pose then next biggest hazard to travel by snowscooter or ski, and crevasses are normally found on fast-flowing ice.
Since 2016, I have annually created and shared an ice surface velocity map as an aid to travel planning in Svalbard. This map is derived from Sentinel-1 satellite microwave images from the EU Copernicus Programme (SAR-processed and delivered by ESA) and it shows where ice is flowing more than around 30 cm per day, superimposed for context on the satellite images themselves.
There are a few places on Svalbard, such as the calving margins of tidewater-terminating glaciers, where ice flow over 30 cm per day is sustained in the long-term. However, most of the colourful parts of the velocity map are associated with glaciers currently undergoing a surge – a significant period of ice speed-up normally occurring over a few years. Most glaciers on Svalbard are thought to be of ‘surge type’ and there are currently around 10 active surges, with a few more coming to and end, and some possibly about to start. Compare the 2019 velocity map with 2018, 2017 and 2016 (below) to see where these changes are occurring.
The 2019 map is now hanging in UNIS Reception, and a PDF of this poster is available from me on request. I am also happy to share the underlying digital data. This resource is used by UNIS Safety and Logistics, by the Svalbard Governors Office, and by local tour guides.