The southern tip of Spitsbergen is called Sørkapp Land. Hornsund Fjord nearly divides Spitsbergen and Sørkapp Land into separate islands. Only an isthmus of ice separates the two. The narrowing isthmus could someday make Sørkapp Land a new island.
In fact, new islands have formed in other locations on the Arctic coasts of Europe and Greenland. In places where the bedrock is below sea level, sea water inundates the space left by retreating glaciers.
The isthmus between Spitsbergen and Sørkapp Land is rapidly thinning and recessing. In 1899–1900, the isthmus was 28 kilometers wide. According to one source, the isthmus was 6.2 kilometers wide as of 2013. Based on the 2019 Landsat image, and measuring the width of the isthmus using geospatial software, the isthmus has narrowed further to about 5 kilometers wide. This ice is grounded well below sea level, so when the ice melts, there will be a strait of open water between the two lands.
The same source estimates that the glaciers on the isthmus will retreat enough to make Sørkapp Land an island by 2030–2035. The isthmus decreased from 12.3 kilometers in 1990 to 6.2 kilometers in 2013, with a rate of decrease of about 270 meters per year. This annual decrease is close to matching that 5-kilometer measurement for 2019; in fact, the decrease is slightly faster than the source’s estimate.
With the launch of Landsat 9 expected in 2021, Landsat satellites will continue monitoring the progress of these glaciers to see whether Sørkapp Land does indeed become a new island in the Svalbard archipelago.