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Open access

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

Andrzej Araźny, Krzysztof Migała, Sebastian Sikora and Tomasz Budzik

Meteorological and biometeorological conditions in the Hornsund area (Spitsbergen) during the warm season

Meteorological and biometeorological conditions during the warm seasons (June-September) of 1979-2008 are described for the Hornsund area, Spitsbergen. The measurements were taken at four sites: at Hornsund, at the Hans Glacier (at its equilibrium line and in the firn section) and at the summit of Fugleberget. The variation of meteorological and biometeorological conditions was analysed in relation to altitude, distance from the sea and the ground type. In warm seasons, the air temperature at Hornsund was 2.2 °C higher on average than at the Hans Glacier (central section) and by 2.8 °C than at the Hans Glacier (firn section) and at Fugleberget. The average wind speed recorded at Hornsund was higher (0.6 m s-1) than at the Hans Glacier and lower (0.9 m s-1) than at Fugleberget. Four biometeorological indices were used: wind chill index (WCI), predicted insulation of clothing (Iclp), cooling power (H) and subjective temperature index (STI). The strongest thermal stimuli were observed on the Hans Glacier and in the upper mountain areas. The study has found a considerable degree of spatial variation between the meteorological elements investigated and the biometeorological indices in the Hornsund area. The impact of atmospheric circulation on meteorological elements and biometeorological indices is also presented. The mildest biometeorological conditions of the warm season found at Hornsund were associated with air masses arriving from the southwest and west.

Open access

Mariusz Grabiec, Dariusz Puczko, Tomasz Budzik and Grzegorz Gajek

Snow distribution patterns on Svalbard glaciers derived from radio-echo soundings

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/icecap/ice field).

Open access

Michał Laska, Bartłomiej Luks and Tomasz Budzik


This paper presents a detailed study of melting processes conducted on Hansbreen – a tidewater glacier terminating in the Hornsund fjord, Spitsbergen. The fieldwork was carried out from April to July 2010. The study included observations of meltwater distribution within snow profiles in different locations and determination of its penetration time to the glacier ice surface. In addition, the variability of the snow temperature and heat transfer within the snow cover were measured. The main objective concerns the impact of meltwater on the diversity of physical characteristics of the snow cover and its melting dynamics. The obtained results indicate a time delay between the beginning of the melting processes and meltwater reaching the ice surface. The time necessary for meltwater to percolate through the entire snowpack in both, the ablation zone and the equilibrium line zone amounted to c. 12 days, despite a much greater snow depth at the upper site. An elongated retention of meltwater in the lower part of the glacier was caused by a higher amount of icy layers (ice formations and melt-freeze crusts), resulting from winter thaws, which delayed water penetration. For this reason, a reconstruction of rain-on-snow events was carried out. Such results give new insight into the processes of the reactivation of the glacier drainage system and the release of freshwater into the sea after the winter period.

Open access

Piotr Dolnicki, Mariusz Grabiec, Dariusz Puczko, Łukasz Gawor, Tomasz Budzik and Jan Klementowski


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.