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Mariusz Grabiec, Jacek Jania, Dariusz Puczko, Leszek Kolondra and Tomasz Budzik

Surface and bed morphology of Hansbreen, a tidewater glacier in Spitsbergen

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) km3. 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.

Open access

Małgorzata Błaszczyk, Jacek A. Jania and Leszek Kolondra


Significant retreat of glaciers terminating in Hornsund Fjord (Southern Spits− bergen, Svalbard) has been observed during the 20th century and in the first decade of the 21st century. The objective of this paper is to present, as complete as possible, a record of front positions changes of 14 tidewater glaciers during this period and to distinguish the main factors influencing their fluctuations. Results are based on a GIS analysis of archival maps, field measurements, and aerial and satellite images. Accuracy was based on an as− sessment of seasonal fluctuations of a glacier’s ice cliff position with respect to its mini− mum length in winter (November-December) and its maximum advance position in June or July.Morphometric features and the environmental setting of each glacier are also pre− sented. The total area of the glacier cover in Hornsund Fjord in the period of 1899-2010 diminished approximately 172 km2, with an average areal retreat rate of 1.6 km2a−1. The recession rate increased from ~1 km2a−1 in first decades of the 20th century up to ~3 km2a−1 in years 2001-2010. The latest period was more thoroughly studied using optical satellite images acquired almost every year. The importance of glacier morphology and hypspmetry, as well as fjord bathymetry and topography is analyzed. Large glacier systemswith low slopes terminating in deeper waters are retreating faster than small steep glaciers ter− minating in shallower water. A relation between mean annual air temperature and aerial retreat rate of tidewater glaciers was found for long time scales. A sudden temperature in− crease, known as the early 20th century warming in Svalbard, and an increase in temperatures during recent decades are well reflected in deglaciation rate. Influence of sea water temperatures on calving and retreat of glaciers was considered and is significant in short−time intervals of the last decade. Surge events are non−climatic factors which com− plicate the record. They are reflected in front advance or fast retreat due to a massive calving depending on the relation between ice thickness and water depth. Despite the influence of many factors, the response of tidewater glaciers to climate change is evident. The average linear retreat rate of all the tidewater glaciers in Hornsund amounted to ~70 ma−1 in 2001-2010 and was higher than the average retreat of other Svalbard tidewater glaciers (~45 ma−1). Thus, glaciers of this basin can be considered as more sensitive to climate than glaciers of other regions of the archipelago.