October 19, 2015

Kronebreen and Kongsvegen, Svalbard Initiation of Glacier Separation 2015

Posted by Mauri Pelto

kronebreen terminus2
Kronebreen terminus in 2013 (left) and 2015 (right), note the configuration change and separation initiation of Kronebreen and Kongsvegen at yellow arrow.
Kronebreen is a large, (450 km2) tidewater glacier on the northwest coast of Svalbard terminating in a shared terminus with Kongsvegen at the head of Kongsfjorden.  Changes in 2015 indicate the shared terminus will not continue.  Luckman et al (2015) observed Kronebreen has a winter speed of 1.5–2 m/day, with summer peaks of 3–4 m/day associated with positive air temperatures and periods of high rainfall.  The terminus of the glacier was relatively stable from 1990 to 2001 with even a slight advance at the end of that period (Trusel et al, 2010).  The fjord lacks a significant sill at its mouth resulting in significant connectivity with water masses of the West Spitsbergen Shelf, including Atlantic Water  Trusel et al, 2010). This aspect during summer can aid in frontal ablation and terminus retreat as noted in Figure 2a from Luckman et al (2015). Shellenberger et al (2014) observed that the period of Kronebreen stability ended in 2007 and that the glacier retreated 850 m and lost 2.1 square kilometers from 2007-2013. Long term they observed that the ablation loss of the terminus reach increased from 0.14 Gt per year from 1960-1990, to 0.20 Gt per year from 1990-2007 and was 0.21 Gt per year in 2013. The University Centre in Svalbard has established a set of cameras for time lapse work at the terminus, which is fortuitous given the changes that have occurred recently. In 2015 returning in the spring University Centre in Svalbard researchers noted the thinning and stretching of the terminus reach: Doug Benn, Penelope How, Heidi Sevestre and Nick Hulton. Penelope How examines the deployment of the cameras in 2015. Here we examine Landsat images to provide a snapshot of the changes that the above researchers have examined in detail.konebreen map
Map of Glacier front from TopoSvalbard.
In 1987 the joined front terminated near the western tip of Colletthogda, red arrow. The purple arrows indicate locations for comparison to 2015 of glacier thinning. By 1998 there has been a small retreat, that will be erased by a small advance the following years. I 2011 the front remains a single linear front, the greater level of crevassing of Kronebreen is evident as well as the shallower water on the southern margin of the fjord the Kongsvegen terminus. In 2013 a larger retreat has begun, the calving front is concave with more retreat on the southern, Kongsvegen side of the terminus. In 2015 substantial changes have occurred. The front of Kronebreen has retreated 1200 m on the northern margin since 1998 and 1500 m on the southern lateral moraine, this is 300-500 m since 2013. The most striking element is the right angle turn in the calving front at the lateral moraine with Kongsvegen. This is not a stable configuration. This represents the initiation of the separation of Kronebreen and Kongsvegen. The weakness along which the process is taking place is the lateral moraine. Kronebreen terminates in deeper water and can retreat more rapidly via calving. This retreat has been driven by enhanced ablation both at the surface and by the ocean. The higher velocity of Kronebreen is clear in the video of the glacier from the University Center of Svalbard. The process of separatiion is a trend in Svalbard note Samarinbreen.and Vasilievbreen.kronebreen 1987
1987 Landsat image

kronbreen 1998
1998 Landsat image
kronebreen terminus ge 2014
2011 Image from TopoSvalbard, note the differenence in level of calving between Kronebreen and Kongsvegen.

kronebreen 2013
2013 Landsat image

kronebreen 2015
2015 Landsat image