Quantification of Seasonal and Interannual Variability of Proglacial Meltwater from a Tidewater Glacier

Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Eleanor F Darlington1, Richard Hodgkins1 and Adrian Jenkins2, (1)Loughborough University, Loughborough, Leics, United Kingdom, (2)NERC British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, CB3, United Kingdom
Ice – ocean interactions of tidewater glaciers remain poorly understood; yet 39% of the global glaciated area drains directly into the ocean via tidewater glaciers. As the Arctic cryosphere continues to lose mass in response to a warming climate, more detailed observations are needed to increase our understanding of ice – ocean processes, enabling improved model predictions of Arctic change. Svalbard hosts a high proportion of tidewater glaciers, including Kronebreen, the fastest flowing glacier on the archipelago. The proglacial meltwater exiting the base of Kronebreen transports fine grained sediment to Kongsfjorden, entrained in a buoyant plume which spreads laterally and is visible at the surface. In-situ measurements of the concentration and spectral reflectance of these surface sediments were used to calibrate spectral data from the MODIS instruments on the Terra and Aqua satellites. Temperature and salinity in front of the calving face, and throughout the meltwater plume, have been measured using a hand held CTD. The spatial surface pattern of total suspended sediment (TSS; g l-1) and plume area, has been quantified for every cloud free day between 1st June – 30th September from 2002 – 2013. High TSS sediment during the early melt season indicates flushing, whilst sediment exhaustion is apparent at the end. We show that the areal extent of these proglacial plumes responds to atmospheric temperature, with a 12 day lag. An underlying seasonal evolution of plume extent is apparent; plume area is small at the beginning and end of the melt season, peaking mid-July. Wind speed and direction also play a role in dictating the length of plume formation, with katabatic winds originating from the glacier, lengthening plumes. However, the overall extent of the sediment plume is dependent on meltwater inputs. As such, this method enables the daily to interannual quantification of proglacial meltwater release from tidewater glaciers, utilizing remote sensing.