Solute provenance, transport and denudation in a high arctic glacierized catchment

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Abstract

Recent understanding of chemical weathering in glacierized catchments has been focused on mid-latitude, Alpine catchments; comparable studies from the high latitudes are currently lacking. This paper attempts to address this deficiency by examining solute provenance, transport and denudation in a glacierized catchment at 78°N in the Svalbard High Arctic archipelago. Representative samples of snow, glacier ice, winter proglacial icing and glacier meltwater were obtained from the catchment during spring and summer 1993 and analysed for major ion chemistry. Seasonal variations in the composition of glacier meltwater occur and are influenced by proglacial solute acquisition from the icing at the very start of the melt season, and subsequently by a period of discharge of concentrated snowmelt caused by snowpack elution; weathering within the ice-marginal channels that drain the glacier, particularly carbonation reactions, continues to furnish solute to meltwater when suspended sediment concentrations increase later in the melt season. Partitioning the solute flux into its various components (sea-salt, crustal, aerosol and atmospheric sources) shows that c. 25% of the total flux is sea salt derived, consistent with the maritime location of the glacier, and c. 71% is crustally derived. Estimated chemical denudation, 160 meq m−2 a−1 sea salt-corrected cation equivalent weathering rate, is somewhat low compared with other studied glacierized catchments (estimates in the range 450–1000 meq m−2 a−1), which is probably attributable to the relatively short melt season and low specific runoff in the High Arctic. A positive relationship was identified between discharge and CO2 drawdown owing to carbonation reactions in turbid meltwater. © 1997 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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