Paraglacial processes operationg on High Arctic coastal margins - Petuniabukta, Central Spitsbergen.

In contrast to mid and low latitude coasts, relatively little is known regarding the potential impacts of climate and sea-level change on high latitude, polar coastal margins. For these reasons, cold region coasts have been identified as a key area of new polar science research identified by International Polar Year.

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  • ipy


  • geology

Project Keywords

  • paleoclimate / ocean/lake records / sediments
  • cryosphere / frozen ground / periglacial processes
  • oceans / coastal processes / beaches

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The over-arching research aim of this Ph.D. addresses this knowledge gap by seeking to advance fundamental knowledge regarding the impact of climate and sea-level change on recently deglaciated Arctic coastal margins, using the Petuniabukta region of Spitsbergen as a study area. The research aims to understand the mechanisms of adjustment of glaciated arctic coasts to non-glacial conditions associated with paraglacial activity following deglaciation, including recent changes during the last century associated with abrupt climate warming following the end of the Little Ice Age. The geographical research focus is Petuniabukta, one of the most protected bays of the Svalbard archipelago, characterized by semi-arid, sub-polar climate and limited wave and tidal dynamics. Since most data regarding the dynamics of paraglacial coastlines originates from research on the shorelines of Atlantic Canada, north-eastern U.S. and Ireland, the location of the project area in the High Arctic holds the prospect of producing a significant advance in our understanding of ‘cold coast’ geomorphology. The intention of this project is to develop a comprehensive description of morphological changes of the deglaciated High Arctic coastal zone in response to recent climate change and to identify possible linkages between coastal morphodynamics and paraglacial activity along surrounding glacial landforms, focused on the last century. This can be broken down to the following aims: 1.) to reconstruct the landform development by an attempt to quantify sediment transport from source (proglacial zones of moraines, sandur, valley slopes and bottoms of glacial valleys incised by proglacial rivers and massive talus slopes) to sink (fjord system) and their effect on local coastal evolution. 2.) to identify driving mechanisms of paraglacial processes along a fjord system characterized by subpolar and dry climatic conditions and low wave and tidal dynamics, in contrast to examples from high-energy paraglacial coasts of Canada, U.S. or Ireland known from literature. 3.) to establish a new model of a paraglacial coastal environment, characteristic for high Arctic coasts. The following objectives will be addressed to meet the aim of this project: a) classification and measurement of paraglacial processes and landforms in Petuniabukta area along a cascade of geoecosystems during the post LIA period: proglacial zone – valley slopes – valley bottom – coastal zone; b) extract from this morphological changes in coastal zone which result from paraglacial activity on surrounding area; c) determine the rate of observed paraglacial changes and their potential impact on coastal zone, including assessment of recent rates of RSL change; d) reconstruct landform evolution in Petuniabukta area during last century with a particular consideration of coastal zone. This project aims to carry out an integrated study of Arctic coastal landforms and associated landsystems, focusing on landscape transformation in time and space by combining field measurement, photogrammetric and GIS analysis. Based on the observations form Petuniabukta this project intends to make a significant contribution to i) the understanding of the environmental response of Arctic coastlines to recent deglaciaton and enhanced global warming; ii) the understanding of driving mechanisms associated with the paraglaciation along Arctic coastlines iii) the understanding of the role of RSL changes on the Arctic coastline geomorphology.

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