Iceland Names “New” Glaciers

Posted by William Colgan on October 07, 2014
Climate Change

This past week the Icelandic Meteorology Office named 130 glaciers on the Tröllaskagi Peninsula in north-central Iceland. Most of the new glacier names refer to local landmarks. Until recently, many of the previously unnamed glaciers had appeared to be white perennial snowfields, rather than blue ice glaciers, in satellite imagery. Retreating snow lines, however, have begun revealing underlying glacier ice since c. 1996. A glacier snowline marks the lowest elevation limit where year-round snow exists. Climate change is causing an upward migration of snowlines at most Arctic glaciers, due to increased surface melt during the summer season. So, although all of Iceland’s monitored glaciers are consistently exhibiting negative surface mass balance, and recent climate change has committed c. 35 ± 11 % of Iceland’s glacier volume (or c. 850,000,000,000 tons of ice!) to disappear, even in the absence of further climate change, some good new for Iceland: It’s glacier population is growing on paper!

Morgunblaðið: Um 130 nafnlausir jöklar

Mernild, S. H., Lipscomb, W. H., Bahr, D. B., Radić, V., and Zemp, M.: Global glacier changes: a revised assessment of committed mass losses and sampling uncertainties, The Cryosphere, 7, 1565-1577, doi:10.5194/tc-7-1565-2013, 2013.

Tröllaskagi_Peninsula_Iceland

The glaciers of the Tröllaskagi Peninsula, Iceland. (from GoogleEarth)

Iceland_glaciers_recent_surface_mass_balance

Recent surface mass balance observations from Iceland’s monitored glaciers. The ice loss of Tungnaarjokull, Langjokull and Hofsjokull SW now exceeds 3000 mm of water equivalent per year. (data from Mernild et al., 2013)

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