View Full Version : Storbreen: Vanishing Giant Glacier

Saturday, October 21st, 2006, 02:22 PM

The bottom portion of Norway's Storbreen (Big Glacier) in Jotunheimen has split in two and is steadily melting.

This photo from autumn 2005 shows the glacier in retreat, one visible indication being the more prominent crag in the center of the photo.

A 3D model image that shows the glacier's range over time, with the lowest mark coming from around 1750, a period known as Norway's 'little ice age'.

Several years of warm summers and poor snowfall have left Bretunga, the lower part of the glacier, in poor shape.

"The glacier is now clearly divided in two. Less than ten years ago it was completely joined there at the bottom," Liss Marie Andreassen, glaciologist at the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE), told Aftenposten.no.

Andreassen's doctorate focused on Storbreen. She says that the glacier has retreated around 60 meters due to melting since 1997, and since measurements began in 1949, the ice has melted about 500 meters back from its previous edge.

More or less all of Norway's glaciers are now on the retreat according to the NVE. They are shrinking in both length and volume, and the trend has been clear since the beginning of the 20th century.

According to the research project RegClim, 1,600 Norwegian glaciers can be gone within the next hundred years, leaving only about 30. Andreassen would not give unconditional support to this prognosis.

"There is no doubt that many of the smaller glaciers will disappear if global warming continues. And many of the larger glaciers will greatly decrease in volume. But saying something about the situation in 100 years is difficult," she said.

"It depends on how warm it will be and how much precipitation falls. For example, it isn't unthinkable that there will be significantly more precipitation in the mountains in coming years. In this case it would lead to better conditions for coastal glaciers," Andreassen said.

According to the NVE about 98 percent of all electricity in Norway is generated from hydropower and the glaciers play a vital role in this process.

"About 15 percent of the water power comes from water systems with significant amounts of glacial water, and in drier years glaciers regulate water flow," said Andreassen, who also noted that glaciers are an important indicator of climate change.

"Glaciers react quickly to changes in temperature and precipitation, and provide much useful information to climate researchers," she said.

Source (http://www.aftenposten.no/english/local/article1501530.ece)