Evolution of spatial variability and physico-chemical properties of snow on coastal tundra of the Hornsund fiord during the spring season (SoCToH)

The aim of project is to study spatial distribution of snow cover and its ongoing physical and chemical properties change during ablation season.

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Project type

  • field work
  • remote sensing
  • arctic field grant (afg)


  • cryosphere

Project Keywords

  • cryosphere / snow/ice / snow melt
  • cryosphere / snow/ice / snow/ice chemistry
  • cryosphere / snow/ice / snow cover
  • cryosphere / snow/ice / snow stratigraphy
  • cryosphere / snow/ice / snow water equivalent

Fieldwork information

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Snow is from one hand factor, which protects tundra vegetation from severe frosts but on the other hand long snow persistence on the ground shorten a lot length of the vegetation season. From length of presence and snow cover thickness depends also condition of arctic fauna, especially reindeers, which cannot get to tundra shrubs, if snow cover is thick, hard and have ice layers within. This is a reason of many reindeers deaths from starvation during very snowy winters. There is correlation between distribution of snow cover and type of tundra vegetation, soil type, occurrence of microorganisms or thickness of active layer in permafrost. Snowpack is also important source of fresh water that during the ablation season goes to fjord and change the transparency of the water which can affect sea organisms living there. or can be a source of information about atmospheric pollutants that are outwashed by snowfall and preserved till melt period. Despite that, spatial distribution of snow cover on tundra and variation of its physical properties are not well recognized over Svalbard. Existing publications about snow cover on Svalbard are mainly focused on glaciated areas, avoiding the problem of snow cover on the tundra along sea shores, or only refer to local scale point measurements. Project would cover with its range areas covered by tundra vegetation on the shores of the Hornsund fiord, mostly surroundings Polish Polar Station Hornsund. Main planned research area is a region bordered by Revelva river and Hansbreen front moraine. As far as possible (weather, ice presence in fiord), studies will also cover further coastal regions around Gnallberget (inner part of Hornsund fiord) and southern unglaciated shores of Hornsund like Gashamnoyra or Alpinistsletta. To determine spatial variation of snow depth it is planned to use ground penetrating radar (GPR) with specific frequency antenna (800Mhz) allowing to find a ground level and even a basic internal layering in snow cover. Fieldwork is planned to start in late April to cover maximum accumulation of snow depth and snow water equivalent. In addition to GPR profiles, it is planned to dig snow pits for obtaining snow stratigraphy and chemical properties of snowpack. Snowpits will be repeated in the same points every week till end of ablation. With the data from Hornsund meteorological station with WMO number 01003 possible will be identifying different snow and ice layers, and reference them to the meteorological conditions during winter with little help of SNOWPACK model calculations. In all snow pits collected will be samples for basic chemical analyses. This should give an information about pace of pollutant removal from the tundra snowpack during the ablation season and check hypothesis if present are any local differences in this matter. Planned is also using the method of snow dyeing in some pits to recognize the drainage system in tundra snowpack (percolation columns) and check later changes in this systems during the ablation season.

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