Deglaciation Rate of Selected Nunataks in Spitsbergen, Svalbard—Potential for Permafrost Expansion Above the Glacial Environment

Joanna Ewa Szafraniec, Wojciech Dobiński
2020 Geosciences  
Spitsbergen has recently experienced a continuous deglaciation process, linked to both glacier front retreat and lowering of the glacier surface. This process is accompanied by permafrost aggradation from the top of the slopes down to the glacier. Here, the authors determine the rate of permafrost expansion in this type of vertical profile. To this end, seven nunataks across the island were analysed using Landsat satellite imagery, a high-resolution digital elevation model (ArcticDEM), and
more » ... rcticDEM), and geoinformation software. Over the last 24–31 years, new nunataks gradually emerged from the ice cover at an average linear rate of 0.06 m a−1 per degree of increment of the slope of the terrain at an average altitude of approximately 640 m a.s.l. The analysis showed that the maximum rate of permafrost expansion down the slope was positively correlated with the average nunatak elevation, reaching a value of approximately 10,000 m2 a−1. In cold climates, with a mean annual air temperature (MAAT) below 0 °C, newly exposed land is occupied by active periglacial environments, causing permafrost aggradation. Therefore, both glacial and periglacial environments are changing over time concomitantly, with permafrost aggradation occurring along and around the glacier, wherever the MAAT is negative.
doi:10.3390/geosciences10050202 fatcat:6cdu25qtavgw7khhrx5xoxjy5m