Status of Ground Based Glacier Monitoring in Scandinavia and Svalbard


Jon Ove Hagen, Department of Physical Geography, University of Oslo


Mass-balance investigations have been conducted for longer and shorter periods in a transect from south Norway to Svalbard, from 61oN to 80oN. Systematic measurements of glaciers have a long tradition in Norway. Since the beginning of this century, frontal positions have been measured annually, with small time gaps, on about fifteen glaciers, and for shorter periods on several other glaciers. Mass-balance measurements were started in 1948 on Storbreen in Jotunheimen, southern Norway, by the Norwegian Polar Institute. The Hydrology Department of the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Administration (NVE) initiated long-term mass balance studies on selected glaciers in southern Norway in 1962 and 1963. Glaciers regarded as representative for certain areas were selected.

Currently long time series are conducted on four glaciers in southern Norway (61oN - 62oN- maritime and continental), one in Svartisen area ( 66-67o - maritime) and one (Storglaciären) in northern Sweden in the Kebnekaise area (68o N - continental). Storglaciären has been measured since 1946, and has the longest continuous series in the world, two years longer that Storbreen in southern Norway. Further north in Norway there are no ongoing measurements, although there are large glacier areas. However, for a five year period (1989-1993) one glacier at 70oN was measured.

In Svalbard, annual mass balance investigations were started in 1966 on Brøggerbreen (6.1 km2) close to the research station Ny-Ålesund ( 79oN 12o E) on the northwest coast of Spitsbergen by the Norwegian Polar Institute. Observations on some other glaciers have been carried out by Russian and Polish scientists in shorter periods in other parts of the island. Currently there are three running mass balance series, Brøggerbreen (6.1 km2), Kongsvegen (105 km2) and Hansbreen (60 km2). The two latter are calving glaciers. Most of the glaciers in Svalbard are of surge type. It is therefore difficult to use the front position of a single glacier as a climate indicator, because the front will shrink and retreat in periods between

surges. The front position therefore gives little information on whether the ice mass is growing or shrinking. Mass-balance measurements are therefore necessary to tell the true story about the volume change. Superimposed ice formation is important. Equilibrium-line altitude determination from aircraft or satellite is therefore difficult. On all investigated glaciers both accumulation and ablation have been measured by direct glaciological-stratigraphic method: snow-sounding profiles, density measurements, and stake readings. Most of the glaciers are fairly small (< 10 km2) cirque glaciers or outlet glaciers from ice caps. In Scandinavia there is no existing program to monitor glaciers by remote sensing. [an error occurred while processing this directive]