November 23, 2015

Paierbreen Rapid Calving Retreat, Svalbard

Posted by Mauri Pelto

paierbreen compare
1990 and 2014 Landsat images indicating Paierbreen (P), Muhlbacherbreen (MU) and Hansbreen (H). The red arrow and red dots indicate the 1990 terminus location and yellow arrows and yellow dots the 2014 terminus location. The purple arrow indicates the location of a supraglacial lake that was persistent in the 1990’s but is no longer evident in 2013, 2014 and 2015.

From 1990 to 2014 all four of the glaciers terminating along the north coast of Hornsund have retreated significantly: Hansbreen (H), Paierbreen (P), Muhlbacherbreen (MU), Storbreen. Svalbard is host to 163 tidewater glaciers with a collective calving front of 860 km (Błaszczyk et al, 2009). Nuth et al (2013) determined that the glacier area over the entire archipelago has decreased by an average of 80 km2 per year over the past 30 years, a 7% reduction. In the most recent period 1990-2007, terminus retreat was larger than in an earlier period from 1930-1990, while area shrinkage was smaller. Hornsund is a fjord that in 2014 almost cuts through the southern Island of Svalbard. The Institute of Geophysics Polish Academy has maintained a Polish Research Station in Hornsund since 1957.  The 1984 map, from the University of Silesia, of the glaciers and geomorphology document the extent of the glaciers in 1983. A more detailed examination by the same researchers, Blaszczyk et al. (2013) reported the total area of the glacier cover lost in Hornsund Fjord area from 1899–2010 was approximately 172 square kilometers. This groups ongoing research, Petlicki et al (2015) , identified the impact of a waterline notch that enhances calving at Hansbreen. This study identifies the importance of water temperature and reduced sea ice cover in the fjord.

Paierbreen in 1990 terminated in Burgerbutka with a 1900 meter long calving front. At the purple arrow a supraglacial lake existed that is also seen in the TopoSvalbard Map. The snowline on Paierbreen is further upglacier of the calving front than for the adjacent glaciers indicating a lower surface slope. By 2014 the glacier has retreated 2200 m with the current terminus at a narrow point in the fjord.  Beyond this point the fjord again expands, which will enhance calving and retreat.  There is no significant step in glacier slope indicating where the tidewater limit is, given the low slope, it is not likely close to the current ice front.  The calving front is 1600 m wide in 2014. The supraglacial lake is only a sliver in 2013 and 2014. The snowline in the Landsat image from 2013 is at 450 m. The story of retreat here is the same as at Samarinbreen and Hornbreen
paierbreen 2013
2013 Landsat Image

paierbreen map
Topographic Map from TopoSvalbard

paierbreen aerial
Satellite Image from TopoSvalbard