January 23, 2013

Svitjodbreen Retreat, Northwest Svalbard

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Svitjodbreen is a 10 km long tidewater outlet glacier in northwest Svalbard, Albert Land. The glacier drains north into Fugelfjorden, the highest elevation of the main glacier is 600 meters with a few neighboring peaks reaching 800 m, not very high. NW Svalbard is a region that has experienced extensive long term thinning from 1965 to 2007 (Nuth et al, 2010), with an average glacier wide thinning of 0.5 m/year and frontal thinning of over 1 m/year. nw svalbardjarlbreen overview copyThe retreat is similar to that of Southern Svalbard at Hornbreen and Hambergbreen and much faster than in Eastern Svalbard at Edgoya. Here we examine Landsat images from 1987, 2000 and 2011 and a Google Earth image from 2009. In each image there are four fixed points: Point A is on the south side of the ridge just south of Rissabreen. Point B is at a small peak, Hirdfjellet. Point C is at the beginning of the Skutelen Peninsula just south of Hirdfjellet and Point D is a small bedrock ridge. In 1987 the terminus extends across the 2 km wide fjord one kilometer north of the ridge on the west side of the glacier labelled A and extends directly across the fjord to Point B. Point D is 3 km behind the glacier front and Point C is 1.5 km from the ice front. By 2000 the western side of the terminus has retreated nearly 500 meters and the east side by Point B very little. In 2011 the terminus has retreated beyond the bedrock ridge at Point A and extends across the fjord to Point C. The bedrock Point D is now just 1.6 km from the glacier front. Jarlbreen has retreated 1200 to 1500 meters from 1987 to 2011, with most of the retreat occurring after 2000.

jarlbreen 1987

jarlbreen 2000
jarlbreen 2012
The front of the glacier is heavily crevassed indicating considerable calving activity. Google Earth refers to this glacier as Jarlbreen, but Jarlbreen is east of the Skutulen Peninsula. The ridge at Point D has expanded as the glacier has thinned. Oerlemans et al (2011) noted a similar retreat rate for Hansbreen. They further determined that calving losses were of the same magnitude as melting losses. jarlbreen ge