Skip to main content Accessibility help

Characterization of seasonal glacial seismicity from a single-station on-ice record at Holtedahlfonna, Svalbard

  • Andreas Köhler (a1) (a2), Valerie Maupin (a3), Christopher Nuth (a1) and Ward van Pelt (a4)


Glacial seismicity provides important insights into glacier dynamic processes. We study the temporal distribution of cryogenic seismic signals (icequakes) at Holtedahlfonna, Svalbard, between April and August 2016 using a single three-component sensor. We investigate sources of observed icequakes using polarization analysis and waveform modeling. Processes responsible for five icequake categories are suggested, incorporating observations of previous studies into our interpretation. We infer that the most dominant icequake type is generated by surface crevasse opening through hydrofracturing. Secondly, bursts of high-frequency signals are presumably caused by repeated near-surface crevassing due to high strain rates during glacier fast-flow episodes. Furthermore, signals related to resonance in water-filled cracks, fracturing or settling events in dry firn or snow before the melt season, and processes at the glacier bed are observed. Amplitude of seismic background noise is clearly related to glacier runoff. We process ambient seismic noise to invert horizontal-to-vertical spectral ratios for a sub-surface seismic velocity model used to model icequake signals. Our study shows that a single seismic sensor provides useful information about seasonal ice dynamics in case deployment of a network is not feasible.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Characterization of seasonal glacial seismicity from a single-station on-ice record at Holtedahlfonna, Svalbard
      Available formats

      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Characterization of seasonal glacial seismicity from a single-station on-ice record at Holtedahlfonna, Svalbard
      Available formats

      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Characterization of seasonal glacial seismicity from a single-station on-ice record at Holtedahlfonna, Svalbard
      Available formats


This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Hide All
Aster, R and Winberry, J (2017) Glacial seismology. Rep. Prog. Phys., 80(126801), 39pp (doi: 10.1088/1361-6633/aa8473)
Bahr, K (2015) High resolution glacier dynamics from GNSS measurements on Holtedahlfonna, NW Svalbard. Master's thesis
Bartholomaus, TC and 5 others (2015) Subglacial discharge at tidewater glaciers revealed by seismic tremor. Geophys. Res. Lett., 42(15), 63916398 (doi: 10.1002/2015GL064590)
Beyreuther, M and 5 others (2010) ObsPy: a Python toolbox for seismology. Seismol. Res. Lett., 81(3), 530533 (doi: 10.1785/gssrl.81.3.530)
Björnsson, H and 6 others (1996) The thermal regime of sub-polar glaciers mapped by multi-frequency radio-echo sounding. J. Glaciol., 42(140), 2332 (doi: 10.3189/S0022143000030495)
Carmichael, JD, Pettit, EC, Hoffman, M, Fountain, A and Hallet, B (2012) Seismic multiplet response triggered by melt at Blood Falls, Taylor Glacier, Antarctica. J. Geophys. Res.: Earth Surf., 117(F03004), 116 (doi: 10.1029/2011JF002221)
Chouet, B (1985) Excitation of a buried magmatic pipe: a seismic source model for volcanic tremor. J. Geophys. Res.: Solid Earth, 90(B2), 18811893 (doi: 10.1029/JB090iB02p01881)
Christianson, K, Kohler, J, Alley, RB, Nuth, C and Van Pelt, WJ (2015) Dynamic perennial firn aquifer on an Arctic glacier. Geophys. Res. Lett., 42(5), 14181426 (doi: 10.1002/2014GL062806)
Deichmann, N and 5 others (2000) Evidence for deep icequakes in an Alpine glacier. Ann. Glaciol., 31, 8590 (doi: 10.3189/172756400781820462)
Ekström, G, Nettles, M and Abers, GA (2003) Glacial earthquakes. Science, 302(5645), 622624 (doi: 10.1126/science.1088057)
Gajek, W, Trojanowski, J and Malinowski, M (2017) Automating long-term glacier dynamics monitoring using single-station seismological observations and fuzzy logic classification: a case study from Spitsbergen. J. Glaciolo., 63(240), 581592 (doi: 10.1017/jog.2017.25)
García-Jerez, A, Piña-Flores, J, Sánchez-Sesma, FJ, Luzón, F and Perton, M (2016) A computer code for forward calculation and inversion of the H/V spectral ratio under the diffuse field assumption. Comput. Geosci., 97, 6778 (doi: 10.1016/j.cageo.2016.06.016)
Helmstetter, A, Moreau, L, Nicolas, B, Comon, P and Gay, M (2015a) Intermediate-depth icequakes and harmonic tremor in an alpine glacier (glacier d'argentière, france): evidence for hydraulic fracturing?. J. Geophys. Res.: Earth Surf., 120(3), 402416 (doi: 10.1002/2014JF003288)
Helmstetter, A, Nicolas, B, Comon, P and Gay, M (2015b) Basal icequakes recorded beneath an Alpine glacier (Glacier d'Argentière, Mont Blanc, France): evidence for stick-slip motion?. J. Geophys. Res.: Earth Surf., 120(3), 379401 (doi: 10.1002/2014JF003289)
Holland, AA (2013) Earthquakes triggered by hydraulic fracturing in south-central Oklahoma. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am., 103(3), 17841792 (doi: 10.1785/0120120109)
How, P and 9 others (2017) Rapidly changing subglacial hydrological pathways at a tidewater glacier revealed through simultaneous observations of water pressure, supraglacial lakes, meltwater plumes and surface velocities. Cryosphere, 11, 26912710 (doi: 10.5194/tc-11-2691-2017)
Köhler, A, Nuth, C, Schweitzer, J, Weidle, C and Gibbons, SJ (2015) Regional passive seismic monitoring reveals dynamic glacier activity on Spitsbergen, Svalbard. Polar. Res., 34, 26178 (doi: 10.3402/polar.v34.26178)
Köhler, A and 5 others (2016) A 15 year record of frontal glacier ablation rates estimated from seismic data. Geophys. Res. Lett., 43, 1215512164 (doi: 10.1002/2016GL070589)
Lachet, C and Bard, PY (1994) Numerical and theoretical investigations on the possibilities and limitations of Nakamura's technique. J. Phys. Earth., 42(5), 377397 (doi: 10.4294/jpe1952.42.377)
Lawrence, WS and Qamar, A (1979) Hydraulic transients: a seismic source in volcanoes and glaciers. Science, 203(4381), 654656 (doi: 10.1126/science.203.4381.654)
Lindbäck, K and 8 others (2018) Subglacial topography, ice thickness, and bathymetry of Kongsfjorden, northwestern Svalbard. Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 10, 17691781 (doi: 10.5194/essd-10-1769-2018)
Lindner, F, Laske, G, Walter, F and Doran, AK (2018) Crevasse-induced Rayleigh-wave azimuthal anisotropy on glacier de la plaine morte, Switzerland. Ann. Glaciol., 116 (doi: 10.1017/aog.2018.25)
Lipovsky, BP and Dunham, EM (2015) Vibrational modes of hydraulic fractures: inference of fracture geometry from resonant frequencies and attenuation. J. Geophys. Res.: Solid Earth, 120(2), 10801107 (doi: 10.1002/2014JB011286)
Lipovsky, B and Dunham, E (2016) Tremor during ice-stream stick slip. Cryosphere, 10(1), 385399 (doi: 10.5194/tc-10-385-2016)
Lough, AC, Barcheck, CG, Wiens, DA, Nyblade, A and Anandakrishnan, S (2015) A previously unreported type of seismic source in the firn layer of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. J. Geophys. Res.: Earth Surf., 120(11), 22372252 (doi: 10.1002/2015JF003658)
Lunedei, E and Malischewsky, P (2015) A review and some new issues on the theory of the H/V technique for ambient vibrations. In Ansal, A ed. Perspectives on European Earthquake Engineering and Seismology, Geotechnical, Geological and Earthquake Engineering 39. Springer, Cham, 371394 (doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-16964-4_15)
Nakamura, Y (1989) A method for dynamic characteristics estimation of subsurface using microtremor on the ground surface. QR Railway Tech. Res. Inst., 30(1), 2533
Neave, K and Savage, J (1970) Icequakes on the Athabasca glacier. J. Geophys. Res., 75(8), 13511362 (doi: 10.1029/JB075i008p01351)
Nuth, C, Schuler, TV, Kohler, J, Altena, B and Hagen, JO (2012) Estimating the long-term calving flux of Kronebreen, Svalbard, from geodetic elevation changes and mass-balance modeling. J. Glaciolo., 58(207), 119133 (doi: 10.3189/2012JoG11J036)
Nuth, C and 7 others (2013) Decadal changes from a multi-temporal glacier inventory of Svalbard. Cryosphere, 7(5), 16031621 (doi: 10.5194/tc-7-1603-2013)
O'Neel, S, Larsen, C, Rupert, N and Hansen, R (2010) Iceberg calving as a primary source of regional-scale glacier-generated seismicity in the St. Elias Mountains. J. Geophys. Res., 115(F04034), 15 (doi: 10.1029/2009JF001598)
Peng, Z and 5 others (2014) Antarctic icequakes triggered by the 2010 Maule earthquake in Chile. Nat. Geosci., 7, 677681 (doi: 10.1038/NGEO2212)
Picotti, S, Francese, R, Giorgi, M, Pettenati, F and Carcione, JM (2017) Estimation of glacier thicknesses and basal properties using the horizontal-to-vertical component spectral ratio (HVSR) technique from passive seismic data. J. Glaciolo., 63(238), 229248 (doi: 10.1017/jog.2016.135)
Podolskiy, EA and Walter, F (2016) Cryoseismology. Rev. Geophys., 54(4), 708758 (doi: 10.1002/2016RG000526)
Podolskiy, EA and 7 others (2016) Tide-modulated ice flow variations drive seismicity near the calving front of bowdoin glacier, Greenland. Geophys. Res. Lett., 43(5), 20362044 (doi: 10.1002/2016GL067743)
Podolskiy, EA, Fujita, K, Sunako, S, Tsushima, A and Kayastha, RB (2018) Nocturnal thermal fracturing of a Himalayan debris-covered glacier revealed by ambient seismic noise. Geophys. Res. Lett., 45, 96999709 (doi: 10.1029/2018GL079653)
Preiswerk, LE and Walter, F (2018) High-Frequency (>2 Hz) Ambient Seismic Noise on High-Melt Glaciers: Green's Function Estimation and Source Characterization. J. Geophys. Res.: Earth Surf., 123(8), 16671681 (doi: 10.1029/2017JF004498)
Reistad, M, Breivik, Ø, Haakenstad, H, Aarnes, OJ and Furevik, BR (2009) A high resolution hindcast of wind and waves for the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea and the Barents Sea. Technical report, Tech. Rep. Met.No Rep. No. 2009/14, Norwegian Meteorological Institute, Oslo
Röösli, C and 6 others (2014) Sustained seismic tremors and icequakes detected in the ablation zone of the Greenland ice sheet. J. Glaciolo., 60(221), 563575 (doi: 10.3189/2014JoG13J210)
Röösli, C, Helmstetter, A, Walter, F and Kissling, E (2016a) Meltwater influences on deep stick-slip icequakes near the base of the Greenland Ice Sheet. J. Geophys. Res.: Earth Surf., 121(2), 223240 (doi: 10.1002/2015JF003601)
Röösli, C, Walter, F, Ampuero, JP and Kissling, E (2016b) Seismic moulin tremor. J. Geophys. Res.: Solid Earth, 121(8), 58385858 (doi: 10.1002/2015JB012786)
Sánchez-Sesma, FJ (2017) Modeling and inversion of the microtremor H/V spectral ratio: physical basis behind the diffuse field approach. Earth. Planets. Space., 69(92), 19 (doi: 10.1186/s40623-017-0667-6)
Schellenberger, T, Dunse, T, Kääb, A, Kohler, J and Reijmer, C (2015) Surface speed and frontal ablation of Kronebreen and Kongsbreen, NW Svalbard, from SAR offset tracking. Cryosphere, 9(6), 23392355 (doi: 10.5194/tc-9-2339-2015)
Stuart, G, Murray, T, Brisbourne, A, Styles, P and Toon, S (2005) Seismic emissions from a surging glacier: Bakaninbreen, Svalbard. Ann. Glaciol., 42, 151157 (doi: 10.3189/172756405781812538)
Vallot, D and 9 others (2017) Basal dynamics of Kronebreen, a fast-flowing tidewater glacier in Svalbard: non-local spatio-temporal response to water input. J. Glaciolo., 63(242), 10121024 (doi: 10.1017/jog.2017.69)
Van Pelt, W and Kohler, J (2015) Modelling the long-term mass balance and firn evolution of glaciers around Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. J. Glaciolo., 61(228), 731744 (doi: 10.3189/2015JoG14J223)
Van Pelt, W and 6 others (2016) Multidecadal climate and seasonal snow conditions in svalbard. J. Geophys. Res.: Earth Surf., 121(11), 21002117 (doi: 10.1002/2016JF003999)
Walter, F and 5 others (2009) Moment tensor inversions of icequakes on Gornergletscher, Switzerland. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am., 99(2A), 852870 (doi: 10.1785/0120080110)
Walter, F, Canassy, P D, Husen, S and Clinton, J F (2013) Deep icequakes: what happens at the base of Alpine glaciers?. J. Geophys. Res.: Earth Surf., 118(3), 17201728 (doi: 10.1002/jgrf.20124)
Wang, R (1999) A simple orthonormalization method for stable and efficient computation of Green's functions. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am., 89(3), 733741
Wessel, P and Smith, WHF (1998) New, improved version of GMT released. Eos, Trans. Am. Geophys. Union, 79(47), 579579 (doi: 10.1029/98EO00426)
West, ME, Larsen, CF, Truffer, M, O'Neel, S and LeBlanc, L (2010) Glacier microseismicity. Geology, 38(4), 319322 (doi: 10.1130/G30606.1)
Winberry, JP, Anandakrishnan, S, Wiens, DA and Alley, RB (2013) Nucleation and seismic tremor associated with the glacial earthquakes of Whillans Ice Stream, Antarctica. Geophys. Res. Lett., 40(2), 312315 (doi: 10.1002/grl.50130)
Winsvold, S and 5 others (2018) Using SAR data time-series for regional glacier mapping. Cryosphere, 12, 867890 (doi: 10.5194/tc-12-867-2018)
Withers, M and 6 others (1998) A comparison of select trigger algorithms for automated global seismic phase and event detection. Bull. Seismol. Soc. Am., 88(1), 95106
Yan, P and 5 others (2018) Antarctic ice sheet thickness estimation using the horizontal-to-vertical spectral ratio method with single-station seismic ambient noise. Cryosphere, 12, 795810 (doi: 10.5194/tc-12-795-2018)
Zoet, LK, Anandakrishnan, S, Alley, RB, Nyblade, AA and Wiens, DA (2012) Motion of an Antarctic glacier by repeated tidally modulated earthquakes. Nat. Geosci., 5(9), 623626 (doi: 10.1038/NGEO1555)


Related content

Powered by UNSILO

Characterization of seasonal glacial seismicity from a single-station on-ice record at Holtedahlfonna, Svalbard

  • Andreas Köhler (a1) (a2), Valerie Maupin (a3), Christopher Nuth (a1) and Ward van Pelt (a4)


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed.