April 10, 2018

Mityushikha Ice Caps Separation, Novaya Zemlya

Posted by Mauri Pelto

Mityushikha Ice Cap (M) and West Mityushikha Ice Cap (WM) arrows indicating locations of glacier  separation or glacier margin change. 

Mityushikha Ice Caps are a group of small ice caps near the southern end of the glaciated mountains of Novaya Zemlya. Here we examine two of these ice caps using Landsat imagery from 1994-2017. Much attention has focused on the retreat of the larger tidewater glaciers of Novaya Zemlya, that between 1992 and 2010 retreat rates were an order of magnitude higher for tidewater glaciers outlets (52.1 m/year than for land-terminating glaciers 4.8m/year Stokes et al (2017).  Carr et al (2017 ) observed that glacier retreat between 1973/76 and 2015 in Novaya Zemlya terminating into lakes or the ocean receded 3.5 times faster than those that terminate on land. Both studies focus on terminus retreat, here we also can observed the accumulation area ratio and area losses.

A comparison of the two ice caps Mityushikha (M) and West Mityushikha (WM), at nine locations between 1994 and 2016 indicate a consistent pattern. The most striking aspect is the lack of retained snowpack on the WM ice cap in 2016, while M ice cap has limited retained snowpack.  This pattern of snowpack loss is evident in other years and has led to the changes observed between 1994 and 2016.

  • Point 1: The northern glacier has disconnected from the ice cap.
  • Point 2: A significant expansion of bedrock leading to reduced glacier connection.
  • Point 3: The ridge has extended west toward the ice cap margin.
  • Point 4: The two outlet glaciers have separated.
  • Point 5:  The southern glacier has separated from the rest of the ice cap.
  • Point 6:  Separation of the southern glacier from the WM.
  • Point 7: Expansion of bedrock exposed areas.
  • Point 8: Expansion of bedrock area amidst ice cap.
  • Point 9: Separation of northern glacier from ice cap.

A comparison of Landsat images from 2001 and 2017 indicate retreat of outelt glaciers fro the Mityushikha Ice Cap at six locations.

  • Arrow 1: A 300 m retreat
  • Arrow 2: A 600 m retreat
  • Arrow 3: Separation from #2 and 600 m retreat.
  • Arrow 4: A 150 m retreat.
  • Arrow 5: A 500 m retreat
  • Arrow 6: A distributary terminus of #1 a 500 m retreat

The rate of retreat of these small ice cap glaciers is higher than reported by Stokes et al, (2017) or Carr et al, (2017)  What is also evident is the significant area and volume losses.  Mass losses indicate that climate change is not just affecting glaciers via increased calving losses. The changes are not as eye catching as the retreat of large outlet glaciers, leading to new island formation, Nizkiy Glacier, but is similar to that seen at Lednikovoye Glaciers.

Mityushikha Ice Cap with red arrows indicating six glacier terminus that have retreated from 2001 to 2017 in Landsat images.