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Long-term changes of glaciers in north-western Spitsbergen

Sobota, Ireneusz, Nowak, Marcin, Weckwerth, Piotr
Global and planetary change 2016 v.144 pp. 182-197
coasts, glaciers, statistical analysis, Norway
This paper comprises a detailed description of glaciers of the Kaffiøyra region, an area of Svalbard, located in north-western Spitsbergen. The primary objective of this work is to present the essential conditions and characteristics of changes in the dynamics and spatial extent of the glaciers in that region. Most of the research consisted in direct field measurements carried out in 1996–2015, and the investigated changes were mainly related to the mass balance on the Waldemarbreen, the Irenebreen and the Elisebreen. In order to identify the changes of the glaciated area of the studied region, a detailed analysis of the degree of changes in the glaciers' surface area and recession was carried out, starting with the period of their maximum extent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, i.e. by the end of the Little Ice Age. Statistical analysis of measurement data from 1970 to 2015 enabled the development of a simple empirical formula used to work out the mass balance with a similar accuracy to that achieved using direct methods. The mean annual mass balance of the three analysed glaciers was: ˗0.72m w.e. in the case of the Waldemarbreen in 1996–2015, −0.84m w.e. in the case of the Irenebreen in 2002–2015, and −0.65m w.e. in the case of the Elisebreen in 2006–2013. For the Waldemarbreen the change of mass balance with time was estimated to be −0.040 (±0.003) m w.e. a⁻¹. In the same period for the Irenebreen it was −0.052 (±0.024) m w.e. a⁻¹. From the time of their maximum reach in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to 2015, the total area of the Kaffiøyra region valley glaciers decreased by about 43.0% on average. Glaciers in the region retreated at an average rate of 12ma⁻¹. The changes of the glaciers' front positions, which make the north-western coast of Spitsbergen, are similar to the changes observed for other Svalbard glaciers of this type. The investigations of the glacier mass balance in the Kaffiøyra region are especially important, being some of only a few long-term mass balance records available regarding Svalbard.