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Multiphase formation of superimposed ice during a mass-balance year at a maritime high-Arctic glacier

  • Jemma L. Wadham (a1) and Anne-Marie Nuttall (a2)

Abstract

Meteorological and snow-temperature data from midtre Lovénbreen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, indicate two distinct annual phases of rapid snowpack warming and superimposed-ice formation in 1998/99. Short periods of positive air temperatures in early winter, lasting up to 36 hours and often coinciding with rainfall, caused rapid glacier-wide melting. Percolating water froze to form superimposed ice on the lower half of the glacier, and wetted–refrozen snow and ice lenses at higher altitudes. The second period of superimposed-ice formation commenced in May/June 1999 and continued for 5 weeks at low altitudes and throughout the summer at high altitudes. These observations at midtre Lovénbreen are typical of Spitsbergen glaciers and reflect the unique climatology of the region. They contrast with those from glaciers in more continental climatic settings where superimposed-ice formation is confined to a single period during summer. There are significant implications for glacier mass balance, with superimposed ice locally comprising up to 20% of winter balances and accounting for ∼16–25% of the annual accumulation. Since projected climatic warming is greatest during the winter months in Arctic regions, superimposed ice may become an increasingly important component of the winter, and potentially the net, balance of Spitsbergen glaciers.

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References

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