May 18, 2017

Hinlopenbreen, Svalbard 7 km Retreat 1990-2016.

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Hinlopenbreen, Svalbard in 1990 and 2016 Landsat imagery.  red arrow is 1990 terminus, yellow arrow is 2016 terminus,and Oslobreen is noted by Point O

Hinlopenbreen is a large tidewater glacier in northern Svalbard.  The glacier has a periodic history of surging, with the last surge occurring in 1970 (Nuth et al 2010). The glacier has the largest negative balance of -0.58 m/year from 1965-2005 (Nuth et al 2010).   The mass loss is ongoing including thinning on the upper glacier, which should be a build up period on a surge glacier.   Here we examine changes from 1990-2016 in Landsat images.

In 1990 Hinlopenbreen extended north terminating adjacent to a small tributary from the east, red arrow.  On the west side the terminus extended past the northern margin of Oslobreen (O) to a small tributary from the west.  The meltwater network is evident, though not as mature as in 2016. By 2016 the terminus has retreated 7 km south of the eastern tributary and several kilometers south of the northern edge of Oslobreen  merging from the west. The terminus of Hinlopenbreen is 5.6 km wide, exclusive of Oslobreen.  The width remains consistent for 10 km upglacier of the calving front. The retreat from 1990-2016 occurring two decades after the last surge is also indicative of a climate driven retreat not surge driven response. A surge driven retreat would feature accumulation zone thickening, such as noted by Murray et al (2012).  The meltwater network in 2016 indicates water flow through saturated firn, green arrows. The bare glacier ice is further down glacier.  Some of this meltwater will refreeze and not escape the glacier.  The snowline marks the region where the firn/snow is not saturated.  This is another glacier where we have to question whether a future surge is possible, as is the case at Fridtjovbreen.  The retreat of Hinlopenbreen Glacier is similar to that of most tidewater glaciers in Svalbard such as,  Paierbreen, Hornbreen and Svitjodbreen   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. 

Hinlopenbreen, Svalbard in TopoSvalbard aerial imagery.  red arrow is 1990 terminus and yellow arrow is 2016 terminus.

Hinlopenbreen, Svalbard in TopoSvalbard map, blue arrow indicate flow direction.  

August 20-16 Landsat imagery with the saturated firn in darker blue with meltwater channels evident.