The Vavilov glacier dome in the Arctic has accelerated to record speeds

The Vavilov glacier dome in the Arctic has accelerated to record speeds

Kupol Vavilova, sliding into the sea glacier on the Severnaya Zemlya in the Russian Arctic from 2015, was accelerated dozens of times up to 25 meters a day, a year after losing a 4.5 cubic mile of ice. It is reported by an international group of scientists, whose article was published in the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters.


Vavilov ice dome is located on the island of October revolution island of Severnaya Zemlya archipelago, and his tongue is on the West side gradually extends to the sea. The authors write that the speed at which this is happening lately, not previously observed on any glacier, and it causes doubt in the fact that other glaciers, which are now stable, can undergo the same loss of mass.

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“In a warming climate, the acceleration of glaciers is happening more and more, but the rate of loss of ice on the Vavilov dome extreme and unprecedented — We’ve never seen anything like it, and we had just as many new questions as we worked. Now we are working on a model of the situation to better understand the physics of what is happening,” said the study’s lead author Mike Willis (Mike Willis) from the University of Colorado at boulder, quoted in a press-service.

The researchers used satellite images by DigitalGlobe in order to assess the speed of advance of the glacier tongue. They found that prior to 2010, the glacier was moving slowly, a few inches a day, and then gradually began to accelerate, and by 2015 “overclocked” up to 25 metres a day.

The authors believe that the acceleration is usually stable glacier, sheltered from the rain, dry climate in the polar desert, due to the fact that his tongue moved over the slippery sediments, and began to accelerate, gradually Potapova water under the glacier, which, in turn, further accelerate it (so there is positive feedback).

Now the glacier moves with a speed of 5 to 10 meters per day. If in 30 years to accelerate he moved two kilometres and lost about 1.2 cubic kilometers of volume, but in one year from 2015 to 2016, it has moved four kilometers, was about 100 meters thinner and lost a 4.5 cubic mile of ice. Scientists warn that because of climate change and warming in the Arctic Kupol Vavilova unlikely to return a lost mass of ice.

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To coincide with international study preparing to printing a Russian publication, which is N+1 was told by her co-author, leading researcher of the glaciology Department of the Institute of geography of RAS Gennady Nosenko. In the materials provided by Nosenko, says that Russian scientists have analyzed the 28 satellite images taken in the period from 1963 to 2017, aircraft radar and literature.

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According to estimates of Russian scientists, the gradual acceleration of the glacier began in the 1980s when 12 meters a year, he moved to 100 meters per year at the beginning of the two thousandth. The maximum rate of advance of the glacier — 9.2 km per year — was recorded in 2016. “From 1963 to 2017, the edge of the glacier moved 11.7 km, and its area increased by 134,1 square kilometres (47 per cent compared to the square, 1963), which was accompanied by the spread up to the glacier zone of fractures,” — said in the article.

Scientists from the Institute of geography RAS also suggest that acceleration of the glacier was associated with unstable marine sediments and the positive feedback from water under the glacier. In addition, the increase in speed was facilitated by the abnormally warm 2012.