Decadal-scale dynamic changes on Novaya Zemlya, Russian High Arctic, from remotely sensed imagery

Tuesday, 16 December 2014
Tom Holt1, Rachel Carr1, Heather Bell2 and Laura Ludwinski-Heydenkorn2, (1)Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, SY23, United Kingdom, (2)Aberystwyth University, Aberystwyth, United Kingdom
Arctic ice masses have rapidly lost mass from the mid-1990s, through a combination of negative surface mass balance and accelerated ice discharge from marine-terminating outlet glaciers. In the past decade, substantial mass deficits have been identified on Novaya Zemlya, Russian High Arctic, and its outlet glaciers have retreated rapidly, likely due to declining sea ice concentrations. Although studies from the Greenland Ice Sheet suggest that outlet glacier retreat impacts markedly on inland ice at decadal timescales, its influence on Novaya Zemlya remains unclear and is complicated by the presence of surge-type glaciers. Here we use multiple satellite imagery sources to assess decadal-scale (1980s – 2010s) changes in the frontal position, surface elevation, terminus velocity and glaciological structure of outlet glaciers on the northern ice cap, Novaya Zemlya. We observe a substantial acceleration in retreat rates during the study period: recession was comparatively slow between the mid-1980s and circa. 2000, it increased markedly during the 2000s and further accelerated from 2011 onwards. Total retreat rates (1980s – 2010s) showed a strong dependence on terminus type: recession on marine-terminating outlets was up to an order of magnitude greater than on land- or lake-terminating glaciers, with the latter retreating somewhat quicker than those ending on land. We observed substantially higher retreat rates on the Barents Sea coast than on the Kara Sea, and greater recession on the northern Kara Sea coast than in the south. We detect frontal advance on three glaciers in the 2010s, which contrasts markedly with the strong retreat observed elsewhere. We suggest that this results from recent surge activity and is supported by the identification of surge-related features (e.g. looped moraines) on these outlets. Future work will use ASTER and Corana imagery to map surface elevation change and feature tracking will be applied to optical imagery, in order to quantify velocity changes proximal to the study glacier termini. This will allow us to assess the decadal-scale dynamic response of Novaya Zemlya outlet glaciers to frontal retreat and to identify dynamic changes associated with surging behaviour.