We describe the spatial variability of snow accumulation on three selected glaciers in Spitsbergen (Hansbreen, Werenskioldbreen and Aavatsmarkbreen) in the winter seasons of 1988/89, 1998/99 and 2001/2002 respectively. The distribution of snow cover is determined by the interrelationships between the direction of the glacier axes and the dominant easterly winds. The snow distribution is regular on the glaciers located E-W, but is more complicated on the glaciers located meridionally. The western part of glaciers is more predisposed to the snow accumulation than the eastern. This is due to snowdrift intensity. Statistical relationships between snow accumulation, deviation of accumulation from the mean values and accumulation variability related to topographic parameters such as: altitude, slope inclination, aspect, slope curvature and distance from the edge of the glacier have been determined. The only significant relations occured between snow accumulation and altitude (r = 0.64-0.91).
Snowmelt is a very important component of freshwater resources in the polar environment. Seasonal fluctuations in the water supply to glacial drainage systems influence glacier dynamics and indirectly affect water circulation and stratification in fjords. Here, we present spatial distribution of the meltwater production from the snow cover on Hansbreen in southern Spitsbergen. We estimated the volume of freshwater coming from snow deposited over this glacier. As a case study, we used 2014 being one of the warmest season in the 21st century. The depth of snow cover was measured using a high frequency Ground Penetrating Radar close to the maximum stage of accumulation. Simultaneously, a series of studies were conducted to analyse the structure of the snowpack and its physical properties in three snow pits in different glacier elevation zones. These data were combined to construct a snow density model for the entire glacier, which together with snow depth distribution represents essential parameters to estimate glacier winter mass balance. A temperature index model was used to calculate snow ablation, applying an average temperature lapse rate and surface elevation changes. Applying variable with altitude degree day factor, we estimated an average daily rate of ablation between 0.023 m d-1 °C-1 (for the ablation zone) and 0.027 m d-1 °C-1 (in accumulation zone). This melting rate was further validated by direct ablation data at reference sites on the glacier. An average daily water production by snowmelt in 2014 ablation season was 0.0065 m w.e. (water equivalent) and 41.52·106 m3 of freshwater in total. This ablation concerned 85.5% of the total water accumulated during winter in snow cover. Extreme daily melting exceeded 0.020 m w.e. in June and September 2014 with a maximum on 6th July 2014 (0.027 m w.e.). The snow cover has completely disappeared at the end of ablation season on 75.8% of the surface of Hansbreen.
The spatial distribution of snow thickness on glaciers is driven by a set of climatological, meteorological, topographical and orographic conditions. This work presents results of snow accumulation studies carried out from 2006 to 2009 on glaciers of different types: valley glacier, ice plateau and ice cap. In order to determine snow depth, a shallow radio echo−sounding method was used. Based on the results, the following snow distribution patterns on Svalbard glaciers have been distinguished: precipitation pattern, precipitation−redistribution pattern, redistribution pattern and complex pattern. The precipitation pattern assumes that the snow distribution on glaciers follows the altitudinal gradient. If the accumulation gradient is significantly modified by local factors like wind erosion and redeposition, or local variability of precipitation, the accumulation pattern turns into the precipitation−redistribution pattern. In the redistribution pattern, local factors play a crucial role in the spatial variability of snow depth. The complex pattern, however, demonstrates the co−existence of different snow distribution patterns on a single glacial object (glacier/ice cap/ice field).
We present the variability of the thermal state and thickness of permafrost active layer at the raised marine beaches in Svalbard. The investigations were carried out using direct probing, thaw tube, ground temperature and radar soundings at Holocene strand plains 10–20 m a.s.l. in Fuglebergsletta (SW Spitsbergen) and at the shore of Kinnvika Bay (Nordaustlandet). Their results were compared to those obtained at other coastal sites in Svalbard. The ground temperature measurements were conducted in 2009 on August, recognized as the standard month for the maximum thawing during the last decade. The studied sites are typical for close to extreme active layer conditions on Svalbard. In Hornsund, the thawing depth exceeded 2 m, while in Kinnvika the active layer was thinner than 1 m. In Svalbard, the depth of thawing decreases generally from south to north and from the open sea coast to the central parts of islands. These differences are the consequence of diverse climatic conditions strongly determined by the radiation balance modified by a number of regional ( e.g. ocean circulation) and local ( e.g. duration of snow deposition) conditions.
Hansbreen, a medium size tidewater glacier in Southern Spitsbergen (Svalbard) is one of the most intensively studied glaciers in the Arctic. This work presents new digital elevation models of its surface and basal topography based on data collected during GPS/GPR campaigns conducted in the spring seasons of 2005 and 2008, as well as on other recent topographic/bathymetric sources. The mean thickness of the glacier is calculated as 171 m and its volume is estimated to be 9.6 (±0.1) km 3 . The main feature of the bedrock morphology is a vast depression that is overdeepened below sea level and extends as far as 11 km upstream from the glacier front. This depression is divided into four individual basins by distinct sills that are related to the main geological/tectonic features of the area. The bedrock morphology affects considerably the glacier’s surface topography. The influence of bedrock and surface relief on the subglacial drainage system geometry is discussed. Vast depressions on the glacier surface favor concentration of meltwater and development of moulin systems.