The marine sedimentary environments of the Kongsfjorden, Svalbard: an archive of polar environmental change?

Katrine Husum, John Howe, Agnes Baltzer, Matthias Forwick, Maria Jensen, Patrycja Jernas, Sergei Korsun, Arto Mittinen, Rahul Mohan, Caterina Morigi, Maarten Prins, Kari Skirbekk, Beata Sternal, Michel Boos, Noortje Dijkstra, Simon Troelstra

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The Kongsfjorden on northwestern Svalbard is characterized by large environmental gradients driven by related to both meltwater processes along the margins of tidewater glaciers and the inflow of relatively warm Atlantic Water, the main heat source for the European Arctic. These factors make Kongsfjorden a key area to investigate changes in the climate-ocean-glacier systems and to examine elucidate the resulting effects on the marine environment. The aim of this paper is to synthesize existing and new knowledge about the marine sedimentary environment in Kongsfjorden since the last deglaciation. Fjords act as natural sedimentary traps allowing the accumulation of sediments archiving information about past and present environmental conditions and changes. Geological studies from Kongsfjorden have demonstrated a good potential for reconstructing palaeoenvironments and establishing baselines values for the natural climate changes in the Arctic. Palaeoceanographic reconstructions reveal rising water temperatures similar to modern c. 12,000 years ago. The extent amount of warm Atlantic Water entering the fjords influences processes at and the stability of the margins of the tidewater glaciers. Enhanced inflow may e.g. cause accelerated glacial melting that, in consequence, leads to an increase in the sediment flux from the glacial catchments into the fjord, as observed both c. 12,000 years ago and at present. However, responses of sediment flux to modern environmental changes remain poorly understood, hence long-term and monitoring studies are needed in order to quantify and model the effects of the climate warming, on the sedimentary environment of Kongsfjorden.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalPolar Research
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2019


  • fjord
  • environment
  • geology
  • climate
  • sediments
  • deglaciation


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