This paper presents a detailed study of melting processes conducted on Hansbreen - a tidewater glacier terminating in the Hornsund fjord, Spitsbergen. The fieldwork was carried out from April to July 2010. The study included observations of meltwater distribution within snow profiles in different locations and determination of its penetration time to the glacier ice surface. In addition, the variability of the snow temperature and heat transfer within the snow cover were measured. The main objective concerns the impact of meltwater on the diversity of physical characteristics of the snow cover and its melting dynamics. The obtained results indicate a time delay between the beginning of the melting processes and meltwater reaching the ice surface. The time necessary for meltwater to percolate through the entire snowpack in both, the ablation zone and the equilibrium line zone amounted to c. 12 days, despite a much greater snow depth at the upper site. An elongated retention of meltwater in the lower part of the glacier was caused by a higher amount of icy layers (ice formations and melt-freeze crusts), resulting from winter thaws, which delayed water penetration. For this reason, a reconstruction of rain-on-snow events was carried out. Such results give new insight into the processes of the reactivation of the glacier drainage system and the release of freshwater into the sea after the winter period.
Snowmelt is a very important component of freshwater resources in the polar environment. Seasonal fluctuations in the water supply to glacial drainage systems influence glacier dynamics and indirectly affect water circulation and stratification in fjords. Here, we present spatial distribution of the meltwater production from the snow cover on Hansbreen in southern Spitsbergen. We estimated the volume of freshwater coming from snow deposited over this glacier. As a case study, we used 2014 being one of the warmest season in the 21st century. The depth of snow cover was measured using a high frequency Ground Penetrating Radar close to the maximum stage of accumulation. Simultaneously, a series of studies were conducted to analyse the structure of the snowpack and its physical properties in three snow pits in different glacier elevation zones. These data were combined to construct a snow density model for the entire glacier, which together with snow depth distribution represents essential parameters to estimate glacier winter mass balance. A temperature index model was used to calculate snow ablation, applying an average temperature lapse rate and surface elevation changes. Applying variable with altitude degree day factor, we estimated an average daily rate of ablation between 0.023 m d-1 °C-1 (for the ablation zone) and 0.027 m d-1 °C-1 (in accumulation zone). This melting rate was further validated by direct ablation data at reference sites on the glacier. An average daily water production by snowmelt in 2014 ablation season was 0.0065 m w.e. (water equivalent) and 41.52·106 m3 of freshwater in total. This ablation concerned 85.5% of the total water accumulated during winter in snow cover. Extreme daily melting exceeded 0.020 m w.e. in June and September 2014 with a maximum on 6th July 2014 (0.027 m w.e.). The snow cover has completely disappeared at the end of ablation season on 75.8% of the surface of Hansbreen.