Interannual variability in the spatial distribution of winter accumulation at a high-Arctic glacier (Finsterwalderbreen, Svalbard), and its relationship with topography.

Glacier mass balance and hydrology are strongly influenced by the distribution of snow accumulation at the start of the melt season. Two successive end-of-winter snow-cover surveys at Finsterwalderbreen, Svalbard, are here used to investigate the interannual variability in the spatial distribution of accumulation, and its relationship with topography. 40–62% of the variance in snow depth was not determined by elevation (assessed by linear regression of snow depth on surface elevation), which could not therefore necessarily be used as a sole predictor of the spatial distribution of accumulation here. Principal components (PC) analysis of the topographic variables elevation, slope, north–south and east–west aspects shows that only two of six PCs, determined for 2 years’ sampling locations, had maximum loadings on altitude; aspect was more important, with maximum loadings on four PCs. Hierarchical cluster analysis was then applied to these PCs: significant correlations with accumulation in each of two terrain clusters were given by (1) elevation and slope, (2) east–west aspect only (1999); (1) elevation only, (2) no significant correlations (2000). There is strong interannual variability not only in the magnitude of winter accumulation (0.41mw.e. in 1999, 0.58mw.e. in 2000), but also in its spatial distribution, and its relationship with topography.