Svalbard glaciers much more vulnerable to warming since mid-1980s

News - 14 September 2020 - Communication

About 60% of Svalbard, the archipelago with Spitsbergen as its largest island, is covered by glaciers. These glaciers can handle yearly temperature fluctuations as long as they are covered by a layer of porous snow, also called firn, which buffers much of the meltwater. Using a high-resolution climate model, researchers – among whom Stef Lhermitte (TU Delft and Bert Wouters (Utrecht University  / TU Delft) have now shown that Svalbard’s firn line has retreated to a critical altitude in the mid-1980s. Since then, most of Svalbard’s glaciers have lost their protective firn layer, which leaves the ice much more vulnerable to summer melt. The results are published today in Nature Communications.

More information

Read the full press release on the site of Utrecht University

Publication: ‘Low elevation of Svalbard glaciers drives high mass loss variability’, Brice Noël, C. L. Jakobs, W. J. J. van Pelt, S. Lhermitte, B. Wouters, J. Kohler, J. O. Hagen, B. Luks, C. H. Reijmer, W. J. van de Berg & M. R. van den Broeke

Image: View of Ostra Bramatoppen across Storbreen, South Svalbard, during a research expedition in 2015. (Photo: Willem Jan van de Berg, Utrecht University)

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