Publication details

Fifty Years of Tidewater Glacier Surface Elevation and Retreat Dynamics along the South-East Coast of Spitsbergen (Svalbard Archipelago)



Year of publication 2022
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source Remote Sensing
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Science

Keywords tidewater glaciers; surface elevation changes; glacier geometry; Svalbard
Description Tidewater glaciers on the east coast of Svalbard were examined for surface elevation changes and retreat rate. An archival digital elevation model (DEM) from 1970 (generated from aerial images by the Norwegian Polar Institute) in combination with recent ArcticDEM were used to compare the surface elevation changes of eleven glaciers. This approach was complemented by a retreat rate estimation based on the analysis of Landsat and Sentinel-2 images. In total, four of the 11 tidewater glaciers became land-based due to the retreat of their termini. The remaining tidewater glaciers retreated at an average annual retreat rate of 48 m year(-1), and with range between 10-150 m year(-1). All the glaciers studied experienced thinning in their frontal zones with maximum surface elevation loss exceeding 100 m in the ablation areas of three glaciers. In contrast to the massive retreat and thinning of the frontal zones, a minor increase in ice thickness was recorded in some accumulation areas of the glaciers, exceeding 10 m on three glaciers. The change in glacier geometry suggests an important shift in glacier dynamics over the last 50 years, which very likely reflects the overall trend of increasing air temperatures. Such changes in glacier geometry are common at surging glaciers in their quiescent phase. Surging was detected on two glaciers studied, and was documented by the glacier front readvance and massive surface thinning in high elevated areas.
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