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Do morphometric parameters and geological conditions determine chemistry of glacier surface ice? Spatial distribution of contaminants present in the surface ice of Spitsbergen glaciers (European Arctic)

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The chemism of the glaciers is strongly determined by long-distance transport of chemical substances and their wet and dry deposition on the glacier surface. This paper concerns spatial distribution of metals, ions, and dissolved organic carbon, as well as the differentiation of physicochemical parameters (pH, electrical conductivity) determined in ice surface samples collected from four Arctic glaciers during the summer season in 2012. The studied glaciers represent three different morphological types: ground based (Blomlibreen and Scottbreen), tidewater which evolved to ground based (Renardbreen), and typical tidewater glacier (Recherchebreen). All of the glaciers are functioning as a glacial system and hence are subject to the same physical processes (melting, freezing) and the process of ice flowing resulting from the cross-impact force of gravity and topographic conditions. According to this hypothesis, the article discusses the correlation between morphometric parameters, changes in mass balance, geological characteristics of the glaciers and the spatial distribution of analytes on the surface of ice. A strong correlation (r = 0.63) is recorded between the aspect of glaciers and values of pH and ions, whereas dissolved organic carbon (DOC) depends on the minimum elevation of glaciers (r = 0.55) and most probably also on the development of the accumulation area. The obtained results suggest that although certain morphometric parameters largely determine the spatial distribution of analytes, also the geology of the bed of glaciers strongly affects the chemism of the surface ice of glaciers in the phase of strong recession.

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The authors would like to thank Head of the Department of Analytical Chemistry of the Gdańsk University of Technology Professor Jacek Namieśnik for his support in the laboratory research. The study was conducted in the scope of the 24th Polar Expedition of the Marie Curie-Skłodowska University in Lublin to Spitsbergen, implementing grant of the National Science Centre: principal investigator Dr. Waldemar Kociuba, project title “Mechanisms of fluvial transport and delivery of sediment to the Arctic river channels with different hydrologic regime (SW Spitsbergen)” (No. 2011/01/B/ST10/06996).

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Correspondence to Żaneta Polkowska.

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Lehmann, S., Gajek, G., Chmiel, S. et al. Do morphometric parameters and geological conditions determine chemistry of glacier surface ice? Spatial distribution of contaminants present in the surface ice of Spitsbergen glaciers (European Arctic). Environ Sci Pollut Res 23, 23385–23405 (2016).

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  • Svalbard archipelago
  • Surface ice
  • Heavy metals
  • Anthropogenic pollutants
  • Environmental contamination
  • Glaciers