Vasilievbreen Glacier Retreat, Svalbard

Vasilievbreen is a glacier that terminates on the east coast of the southern island of Svalbard a short distance southeast of Hornsund. In 1990 this glacier had a single continuous terminus margin along the coast. The glacier retreated 50 m/year from 1936 to 1990, as the embayment of Isbukta expanded. The glacier has since separated into distinct termini, on each image colored arrows indicate the same specific location, red arrow a developing island named Fallknatten, yellow arrow the tip of peninsula called Gedenovfjellet, the orange arrow an island called Morenetangen, the green arrow an emerging island not evident on the map and the purple arrow an area of new coastline on the south side of Isbukta. Blaszczyk et al (2009) analysis identified 163 Svalbard glaciers that are tidewater with the total length calving ice−cliffs at 860 km for the 2001-2006 period. They observed that 14 glaciers had retreated from the ocean to the land over the last 30–40 year period. One glacier they observed having separated was Vasilievbreen. A more detailed examination by the same researchers, Blaszczyk, Jania and Kolondra(2013) reported the total area of the glacier cover in Hornsund Fjord from 1899–2010 diminished by approximately 172 km2. The average glacier area retreat increased from a mean of 1.6 square kilometers per year to 3 square kilometers per year since 2000. The Polish Polar Station at Hornsund is an ideal location from which to conduct annual field research on the glacier and arctic environment in the area. vasilievbreen placevasil map
Map from TopoSvalbard

Here we use Landsat imagery to examine the changes in Vasilievebreen from 1990-2014. In 1990 the terminus is continuous. The glacier reaches the coastline at the purple arrow. There is no evident land at the green arrow. The terminus approaches quite close to the island at the orange arrow and there is a nunatak surrounded by ice at the red arrow. By 2002 Vasilievbreen is no longer a continuous terminus. The glacier at the purple arrow has retreated from the sea, exposing a narrow strip of coastline. At the green arrow some bedrock has emerged that will become islands. At the orange arrow the glacier has retreated from the vicinity of the island. By 2014 The strip of land at the purple arrow has expanded to a length of 2km and a width of 300-500 m, this is a retreat of 400 m. At the green arrow a 3 km long rib of bedrock is exposed and the glacier has retreated 500 m since 1990. At the red arrow the nunatak of 1990 is now at the terminus of the glacier and is much larger, a retreat of 750 m. At the yellow arrow the end of a peninsula is now much closer to the ocean, a retreat of 900 m. At the orange arrow this moraine based island has been eroding, but is also much further from the glacier, a retreat of 800 m. The glacier now has five distinct terminus segments that can retreat independently of each other. That this retreat occurred along a front that is 20 km long represents a loss in glacier area of approximately 10 square kilometers. This is more significant than the actual distance of retreat. The snowline on the glacier in 2014 is above 300 m with the melt season still going, this leaves most of the glacier in the melt zone. The retreat and changing nature of this glacier paralells that of other glaciers in southern Svalbard: Nannbreen, Olsokbreen, Hornbreen and Hambergbreen.
vasilievbreen 1990
1990 Landsat image

vasilievbreen 2002
2002 Landsat image

vasilievbreen 2014
2014 Landsat image

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2010 Image from Toposvalbard

Hornbreen-Hambergbreen Retreat Svalbard

Hornsund is a fjord that in 2010 almost cuts through the southern Island of Svalbard. The Institute of Geophysics Polish Academy have maintained a Polish Research Station in Hornsund since 1957. The 1984 map, from the University of Silesia, of the glaciers and geomorphology document the extent of the glaciers in 1983. At that time the eastern end of Hornsund was fronted by a single glacier terminus comprised of the Sotrbreen (ST), Hornsbreen (HO), Svalisbreen (SV) and Mendelejevbreen (ME). By 2010 retreat has led to the separation of these four glaciers. The top image is the map superimposed on the Landsat image both below, from commenter Andylee. Pälli et al (2003)in a joint University of Oulu, Finland and University of Silesia noted that Hornbreen has retreated by 13.5 km from the central part of the front, and Hambergbreen (HA) by 16km from 1901-2000. As part of this project surveys of the basal topography beneath the glaciers was examined.
Moore et al, 2003) found that there is not a below sea level connection underneath the Hornbreen-Hamberbreen divide that would separate Sorkappland from Torrelland. The ice divide of Hornbreen-Hambergbreen is below the local snowline at 300 m and Pälli et al (2003) indicate that this connection cannot survive current climate. Kvamstø et al (2011) in a Bergen University led study noted the melt season had increased by more than two weeks in Svalbard from 192-2010. In 1983 the distance from the terminus of the Hornbreen to the terminus of Hambergbreen was 17 km. In 2010 the distance is 9 km, as seen below. . A comparison of locations in the 1983 map and the 2010 Landsat image indicate the retreat from 1983 to 2010 has been approximately 5.5 km for Storbreen, 6 km for Hornbreen, 3 km for Svalisbreen and 1.5 km for Mendelejevbreen. . The retreat of the glaciers at the head of Hornsund follow the pattern of other glacier in the region Nannbreen and Hansbreen.

Retreat of Hansbreen, Svalbard

Hansbreen is tidewater glacier flowing into Hornsund in sw Svalbard. The glacier has been examined in detail over the last twenty years from the Polish Research Station. The glacier has retreated 2.7 kilometers from 1900 to 2008. The chart below from Oerlemans, Jania and Kolandara (2011) illustrates this retreat as does the comparative images from the Polish Research Station. The glacier mass balance has been measured since 1989 and is submitted to the World Glacier Monitoring Service. In a detailed review of this calving glacier Oerlemans, Jania and Kolandra (2011) report that The average surface mass balance has been -0.36 meters per year, but this is equaled by the calving loss, leading to a loss of 0.8 meters per year. The low slope of this glacier 1.6 degrees makes it difficult to reestablish equilibrium as it retreats. The bed of the glacier remains below sea level for at least 70% of its length, note Figure 3 in Oerlemans et al (2011). The glacier retreated 400 meters from 2000-2005, and has continued this rate of recession. In the two side by side Landsat images below from 2001 (right) and 2010 (left) changes are evident at the front of the neighboring Paierbreen-circle, Hansbreen (H) and Nannbreen (A) Focusing just on the Hansbreen a red line from the summit of two adjacent mountains is added to the 2001 and 2010 image to illustrate the terminus change. The 2001 images is on top, 2010 image below.