glacierstudy2

Cracking up: Glacier calving controlled by water temperatures – yes, there was legit scientific doubt about it

Read Time:1 Minute, 37 Second

Warmer water melts ice faster. It might not seem like a team of geniuses would be needed to determine that, but when it comes to glaciers there were some uncertainties.

A study of tidewater glaciers in Svalbard has found the water temperatures in the fjords  control the rate of calving. While several recent studies have suggested that seemingly obviously conclusion is probable, there was – believe it or not – no direct proof.

“We now understand for the first time what controls iceberg calving rates in Svalbard,” said Adrian Luckman, a professor at Swansea University and The University Centre in Svalbard who was the lead author of the paper, in a prepared statement. “We anticipate that deep fjord water temperatures also control ice discharge in many other Arctic glacier settings.”

The six lead participants studied three different glaciers with highly different behaviors and melt rates during the warm-weather months of 2013 and 2014: Kronebreen in Kongsfjorden, Tunabreen in Tempelfjorden and Aavatsmarkbreen in Forlandsundet.

Kronebreen, for example, has a winter melt speed of about two meters a day, but that doubles during the summer, which has been attributed to other factors potentially affecting calving such as warmer air temperatures and periods of high rainfall, according to the study.

“Despite their diverse dynamic behaviors and fjord settings, the magnitudes of these (calving) rates are notably comparable, and their seasonal patterns very similar,” the study notes. “Rates for all three glaciers peak in September and October, and continue at a high level well after air temperature has fallen consistently below 0°C.”

Finlo Cottier, a researcher at Scottish Association for Marine Science, said in a statement the results “resolve the debate over the competing influences of ocean versus air temperature on glacial calving.”

The study is part of the CRIOS project (Calving Rates and Impact on Sea Level), which consists of multiple projects between 2012 and 2016. It is funded by the ConocoPhillips/Lundin Northern Area Program.

About Post Author

Mark Sabbatini

I'm a professional transient living on a tiny Norwegian island next door to the North Pole, where once a week (or thereabouts) I pollute our extreme and pristine environment with paper fishwrappers decorated with seemingly random letters that would cause a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters to die of humiliation. Such is the wisdom one acquires after more than 25 years in the world's second-least-respected occupation, much of it roaming the seven continents in search of jazz, unrecognizable street food and escorts I f****d with by insisting they give me the platonic tours of their cities promised in their ads. But it turns out this tiny group of islands known as Svalbard is my True Love and, generous contributions from you willing, I'll keep littering until they dig my body out when my climate-change-deformed apartment collapses or they exile my penniless ass because I'm not even worthy of washing your dirty dishes.
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