Sensitivity of Svalbard glaciers to climate change
SvalGlac - ESF Project

Background and Objectives
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About SvalGlac Project Scientific Results Outreach
Background and objectives

Svalbard situated in the Atlantic sector of the Arctic is very sensitive to climate change. The glaciers reaction reflects the climate warming and is a factor of a changes trend. During the International Polar Year (IPY) there were realized two glaciological projects in this region (Glaciodyn and Kinnvika). As the result it was widen the knowledge about processes of the Svalbard glaciers evolution and built the proper research infrastructure as well as developed the international cooperation.

HansbreenThe archipelago is the best studied region in the Arctic. Paradoxically, main glacier parametres are unknown or estimated with the wide error range, for example thickness and total mass of ice, mass balance, dynamics or ice volume lost due to calving processes. They are only known for some small glaciers terminated on the land, especially the mass balance which reflects the distinct glacier-climate interaction. We have not sufficient data about large glaciers ending in the sea and massive ice caps. They cover the significant part of Svalbard area and are the biggest part of the ice mass. It means that existing models of the Svalbard glacier behaviour due to climate change are approximated. It is important to win new, actual data representing main parametres of large Svalbard glaciers to introduce them into the new generation models of the glacier reaction. It is going to predict more precise forecast of the glaciers evolution. The parameters correction in models requires a new campain of terrain studies:

Authomatic station
  • mass balance measurements;
  • glacier flow velocity measurements;
  • ice radar investigation of glacier thickness and hydrothermal structure;
  • actual glacier topography studied by different methods (especially precise GPS);
  • automatic weather stations (AWS) measurements;
  • shallow ice core studies for the past climate reconstruction.
the Hornsund basinAs a complementary it will be used the aerial and satellite remote sensing data to obtain the information about the glacier geometry, changes in the front position, the surface elevation and the glacier flow velocity. For using the remote sensing data of the largest type of the Svalbard ice cover it is needed the calibration and results must be veryfied directly during the terrain research. All the data will be introduced into the digital models of the Svalbard ice cover evolution due to the climate change.

The main objectives of SvalGlac are:
  1. to obtain a reliable estimate of the total ice volume stored in Svalbard;
  2. to estimate the recent past climate changes and mass balance rates of Svalbard;
  3. to improve the process understanding related to mass balance and dynamics;
  4. to obtain an updated estimate of the present mass balance of Svalbard glaciers;
  5. to model the expected response in surface mass balance and calving flux rate under different scenarios of climate change.
The overriding goal of the SvalGlac Project is the knowledge and the quantitative depiction of the Svalbard glacier evolution model under the climate change condition.
Coordination Secretariat: Joanna Szafraniec (University of Silesia), tel. +48 32 3689589, e-mail:
© 2010-2013 Dept. of Geomorphology, University of Silesia