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The Norwegian Glacier Museum offers entertainment and education for the whole family. The Norwegian Glacier Museum is a official visitor centre of the Jostedalsbreen National Park.

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Filtering by Category: Glacier

The glaciers recede in 2018

Pål Gran Kielland

The Norwegian Glacier Museum & Ulltveit-Moe Climate Centre are measuring the front position of two glaciers in Jostedalsbreen National Park. The data shows recession in 2018.

The front of Vetle Supphellebreen Glacier on October 11 in 2018.

The front of Vetle Supphellebreen Glacier on October 11 in 2018.

Front position measurements

The Vetle Supphellebreen glacier in Fjærland had been advancing the three previous years, but in 2018 it receded 6 metres. We re-started the measurements in 2011, and the glacier have been relatively stable. The glacier was also monitored in the period 1899-1944 and receded in total about 450 metres.

Haugabreen Glacier in early October 2018.

Haugabreen Glacier in early October 2018.

We also monitor the front position of Haugabreen Glacier in Jølster. The data shows a recession of 16 metres in 2018, and the glacier have been shrinking 69 metres since we started the measurements in 2013. During the past couple of years glacier streams are becoming visible in the glacier foreland, which mean it can be difficult to access the glacier for guided hikes, without getting wet, in the future.

Bøyabreen Glacier October 1 in 2018.

Bøyabreen Glacier October 1 in 2018.

Other more well known glaciers, like Bøyabreen and Supphellebreen, are also beeing recorded for the future by taking photos. The glacier recession over the years have been causing problems for executing the front position measurements, but photography makes it possible to still document the glacier development.

More information about glacier measurements is available on the website of The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate. Here, you can read about the heavy glacier melting in 2018 and how glaciers like Engabreen and Nigardsbreen receded 140 and 81 metres respectively.

Glaciers and climate

The hot summer this year took its toll on the snow and ice on the Jostedalsbreen Ice Cap. Since the advance of the late 90’s, the outlet glaciers have been receding the past 20 years. This is all part of the ongoing long term trend of receding glaciers in a warming climate. According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), 2018 is heading to be on of the warmest years to have been registered since the temperature measurements started in the middle of the 1800s. The glaciers are an important source of water on Earth, as 70% of the fresh water is stored as glacial ice. They contribute to a stable water supply and they are one of our best climate archives.

Report from glacier measurements

Pål Gran Kielland

Vetle Supphellebreen Glacier is resisting the melting trend by advancing in 2017, while Haugabreen Glacier is retreating.

By the front of Vetle Supphellebreen Glacier in the start of November 2017. Photo: Pål Gran Kielland.

By the front of Vetle Supphellebreen Glacier in the start of November 2017. Photo: Pål Gran Kielland.

For glacier-interested people there are always good news when a glacier is advancing. Vetle Supphellebreen Glacier advanced for the third year in a row, this year 2 metres. The glacier retreated the first couple of years we did front position measurements, but in total the glacier has advanced 4 metres since 2011. This means the glacier is more or less stable. A surplus of snow in the measurement period may explain the glacier development. If we take a look at local weather stations we see that precipitation is above average for the period 2011-2017. There is a complex symphony which governs glacier development, but in simple terms it is the relationship between winter snow and summer temperature that determines the glacier balance between years.

Haugabreen Glacier after a snow fall in November 2017. Photo: Pål Gran Kielland.

Haugabreen Glacier after a snow fall in November 2017. Photo: Pål Gran Kielland.

The bad news is that Haugabreen Glacier is retreating. The glacier hit a negative personal record by retreating 18 metres this year. Since we started the measurement program, the glacier has a total retreat of 53 metres. We do see an increase in precipitation by looking at data from nearby weather stations, but this is probably not sufficient to resist the melting. 

The changes in glacial extension tells us something about changes in climate. Since the presence of glaciers is mainly controlled by winter snow and summer temperatures, a glacier will reflect changes in these climatic parameters. Large amounts of snow and low temperatures during the winter favour glacier growth, while low amounts of snow and/or high summer temperatures causes glacier retreat.

Growth or retreat is a reaction to a positive or negative mass balance. But, due to different reaction time, there may be a delay of several years between a measured positive mass balance and glacier growth. Short and steep outlet glaciers, like Briksdalsbreen or Bøyabreen, reacts relatively fast. Long, large and gentle sloping glaciers, like Tunsbergdalsbreen and Nigardsbreen, has slower reactions to changes in climatic conditions.