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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Glacial and Permafrost Interactions: The Origins of Ice in Svalbard (RiS ID:11836

Awarded: NOK 52,999

GAPOI seeks to close the knowledge gap between glacial & permafrost interaction within Svalbard’s glacial moraine landscapes, with particular attention to the uncertainty & potential of permafrost aggradation due to anthropogenically forced warming climate in the Arctic. Glacier forefields are hotspots for geomorphological, hydrological & freezing process operating outside of equilibrium conditions due to rapid glacier retreat. Dynamic dis-equilibrium processes include sediment transport, groundwater-surfacewater interactions & sub-permafrost methane release. Permafrost, a layer of earth’s surface remaining at or below 0°C for a minimum of two consecutive years, is often described as a ‘cryospheric cap’ preventing outgassing of sub-permafrost methane. However, during permafrost aggradation coeval with glacier retreat & isostatic uplift, high water pressure systems form fluid escape features & terrestrial outgassing seeps preventing the formation of the ‘cryospheric cap’. These proglacial upwellings & winter icing formations are early warning signs. Despite this, there is no long term, consistent monitoring & literature on permafrost aggradation occurring in Svalbard’s glacier forefields. Hence, it is vital that this fieldwork is in Svalbard to address the knowledge gaps that will reveal the direction & magnitude of change in an Arctic that is warming twice as fast as the global average. Basic geomorphological & geophysical surveys of two cold based glaciers in Svalbard is urgently proposed for comparison: 1) Linnébreen containing an active sediment infilled lake within its forefield but no active winter hydrological system & 2) Rieperbreen containing both a lake & an active winter high-pressure hydrological system forming discharge icings containing methane. For the very first time, systematic monitoring of the subterranean & subaerial environments of glacier forefield environments will be established in Svalbard, providing valuable & consistent scientific data.

Funding scheme:

SSF-Svalbard Science Forum