The pace of climate change observed since the beginning of the industrial era has prompted scientists to seriously consider whether human activity is to blame for global warming. On the geological timescale, however, climate change is certainly nothing new or exceptional – as is clear when one looks at the record of plant and animal fossils.
Vegetation succession in front of five retreating glaciers was studied using phytosociological relevés (60) located at different distances between the Little Ice Age (LIA) moraines and the present glacier fronts around Petunia Bay. Approximate dating of succession stages was based on a study of the changing position of glacier fronts in the past approximately 100 years. The described succession corresponds to the uni−directional, non−replacement model of succession. All constituent species, except one, present in the nearby old tundra have colonized the glacier forelands since the end of the LIA. The first species appeared about 5 years after deglaciation. The latest succession stages closely resemble the old tundra.
Landscape changes of the Gåsbreen glacier and its vicinity since 1899 are described. Maps at 1:50 000 scale of changes of the glacier's elevation and extent for the periods 1938-1961, 1961-1990, 1990-2010, and 1938-2010 are analyzed in comparison with results of the authors' field work in the summer seasons 1983, 1984, 2000, 2005 and 2008. During all the 20th century, the progressive recession of the glacier revealed in a dramatic decrease in the thickness of its lower part, with a small reduction of its area and length. However, further shrinkage produced significant shortening and reduction in area which resulted in final decline of the Goësvatnet glacial dammed lake in 2002. Hence, the lowest (and very thick, up to 150-160 m) part of the former glacier tongue and dammed lake were transformed into a new terraced river valley south of the glacier and a typical marginal zone with glacial landforms north of the glacier. Since 1961, the equilibrium line altitude of the Gåsbreen glacier has risen from ca 350 to ca 500 m a.s.l. and now is located below the very steep rocky walls of the Mehesten mountain ridge, 1378 m a.s.l. Hence, the glacier is being fed by snow avalanches from these rocky walls and much more snow melts during the warmer summer seasons, stimulating a quicker recession of the lowest part of the glacier. This recession may be stopped only by significant climate cooling or increase in snow.
The current climate warming results in a quick recession of glaciers on the northern slopes and valleys of the Lindströmfjellet-Hĺbergnuten mountain ridge in Nordenskiöld Land. The equilibrium line altitude has risen from c. 500-550 m in 1936 to c.750 m in 2001 and c. 800 m in 2006. The slopes, almost completely glaciated during the Little Ice Age, and even in 1936, have mostly been abandoned by glaciers afterwards. The upper parts of the glaciers undergo a clear retreat diminishing their accumulative (firn) fields. The lower parts of the active glacial tongues have been transformed into marginal zones built of dead ice covered with morainic and glacifluvial deposits. The surfaces of the marginal zones are progressively lowered due to ablation of dead ice. The state of the described glaciers is not balanced under the current climatic conditions. Thus, the landscape transformation of the mountain ridge will most certainly continue.
Unique and independent historical observations, carried out in the central Arctic during the early twentieth century warming (ETCW) period, were used to evaluate the older (20CRv2) and newer (20CRv2c) versions of the 20th Century Reanalysis and the HIRHAM5 regional climate model. The latter can reduce several biases compared to its forcing data set (20CRv2) probably due to higher horizontal resolution and a more realistic cloud parameterization. However, low-level temperature and near-surface specific humidity agree best between 20CRv2c and the surface-based observations. This better performance results from more realistic lower boundary conditions for sea ice concentration and sea surface temperature, but it is limited mainly to polar night. Although sea level pressures are very similar, the vertical stratification and baroclinicity change in the transition from 20CRv2 to 20CRv2c. Compared to observed temperature profiles, the systematic cold bias above 400 hPa remains almost unchanged indicating an incorrect coupling between the planetary boundary layer and free troposphere. In addition to surface pressures, it is therefore recommended to assimilate available vertical profiles of temperature, humidity and wind speed. This might also reduce the large biases in 10 m wind speed, but the reliability of the sea ice data remains a great unknown.
A glacier lake outburst flood occurred on James Ross Island, Antarctic Peninsula region, during the 2004-2005 austral summer season. The source lake was located on the Lachman II ice-cored rock glacier, and formed prior to 1980. The size of the lake has been increasing gradually since the 1990s. The lake basin extended to approximately 220 m in length and 160 m in width by the end of February 2005. We observed that the lake had drained by February 2005, and found a deep gully on the south side of the lake rim. It appears that the lake level rose and water overflowed the lake rim here. James Ross Island contains a large number of debris-covered glaciers, ice-cored moraines, and rock glaciers with glacier lakes which are dammed by these features or which form upon them. As climatic warming has recently been reported for this region, further glacier lake outburst floods seem likely to occur.