Recent contrasting behaviour of mountain glaciers across the European High Arctic revealed by ArcticDEM data
- Cryosphere Research Group, Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznań, Poland
Abstract. Small land-terminating mountain glaciers are a widespread and important element of Arctic ecosystems, influencing local hydrology, microclimate, and ecology, among others. Due to little ice volumes, this class of ice masses is very sensitive to climate warming, the latter of which is extremely well manifested in the European sector of the Arctic, i.e. in the Barents Sea area. Archipelagos surrounding the Barents Sea, i.e. Svalbard (SV), Novaya Zemlya (NZ), and Franz Josef Land (FJ), host numerous populations of mountain glaciers, but their response to recent strong warming remains understudied in most locations. This paper aims to obtain a snapshot of their state by utilizing high-resolution elevation data (ArcticDEM) to investigate the recent (ca. 2011–2017) elevation and volume changes of 382 small glaciers across SV, NZ, and FJ. The study concludes that many mountain glacier sites across the Barents Sea have been in a critical imbalance with the recent climate and might melt away within the coming several decades. However, deviations from the general trend exist, e.g. a cluster of small glaciers in north SV experiencing thickening. The findings reveal that near-stagnant glaciers might exhibit contrasting behaviours (fast thinning vs. thickening) over relatively short distances, being a challenge for climate models, but also an opportunity to test their reliability.
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