Current Ice Loss in Small Glacier Systems of the Arctic Islands (Iceland, Svalbard, and the Russian High Arctic) from Satellite Gravimetry


Recent climate changes have brought about significant ice sheets and glacier melting in many parts of the world. Satellite gravimetry by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) revealed that such ice melting also occurs in small glacier systems in the Arctic region, i.e., Iceland, Svalbard, and the Russian High Arctic. Using monthly gravity solutions from GRACE during 2004.02 - 2012.01, we obtained the average ice loss rates of 10.9 ± 2.1, 3.6 ± 2.9, and 6.9 ± 7.4 Gt yr-1, for these three glacial systems, respectively. The total ice loss rate is 21.4 ± 12.4 Gt yr-1, about twice as fast as the average rate over a ~40 years interval before the studied period. We found that the ice loss rates in Svalbard and Novaya Zemlya, in the Russian High Arctic, had significant temporal variability, showing decreasing trend before 2008 and increasing trend around the winter of 2009/2010, respectively. Due to such variability, the total ice loss rate becomes as high as 32.9 ± 19.2 Gt y-1 during 2004.02 - 2008.01. Such variability in the rate might reflect the strong negative Arctic Oscillation (AO) in the northern hemisphere winter of 2009/2010.

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