Articles | Volume 11, issue 5
The Cryosphere, 11, 2149–2174, 2017
The Cryosphere, 11, 2149–2174, 2017

Research article 08 Sep 2017

Research article | 08 Sep 2017

Exceptional retreat of Novaya Zemlya's marine-terminating outlet glaciers between 2000 and 2013

J. Rachel Carr1, Heather Bell2, Rebecca Killick3, and Tom Holt4 J. Rachel Carr et al.
  • 1School of Geography, Politics and Sociology, Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, NE1 7RU, UK
  • 2Department of Geography, Durham University, Durham, DH13TQ, UK
  • 3Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Lancaster University, Lancaster, LA1 4YF, UK
  • 4Centre for Glaciology, Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, SY23 4RQ, UK

Abstract. Novaya Zemlya (NVZ) has experienced rapid ice loss and accelerated marine-terminating glacier retreat during the past 2 decades. However, it is unknown whether this retreat is exceptional longer term and/or whether it has persisted since 2010. Investigating this is vital, as dynamic thinning may contribute substantially to ice loss from NVZ, but is not currently included in sea level rise predictions. Here, we use remotely sensed data to assess controls on NVZ glacier retreat between 1973/76 and 2015. Glaciers that terminate into lakes or the ocean receded 3.5 times faster than those that terminate on land. Between 2000 and 2013, retreat rates were significantly higher on marine-terminating outlet glaciers than during the previous 27 years, and we observe widespread slowdown in retreat, and even advance, between 2013 and 2015. There were some common patterns in the timing of glacier retreat, but the magnitude varied between individual glaciers. Rapid retreat between 2000 and 2013 corresponds to a period of significantly warmer air temperatures and reduced sea ice concentrations, and to changes in the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). We need to assess the impact of this accelerated retreat on dynamic ice losses from NVZ to accurately quantify its future sea level rise contribution.

Short summary
Glaciers on Novaya Zemlya (NVZ) retreated rapidly between 2000 and 2013. This was far faster than the previous 25 years, but retreat then slowed from 2013 onward. This may result from changes in broadscale climatic patterns. Glaciers ending in lakes retreated at a similar rate to those ending in the ocean, and retreat rates were very consistent between glaciers, which contrasts with previous studies.