This Photo Friday, glaciologist Miriam Jackson takes us to Engabreen, a northern outlet glacier from Norway’s western Svartisen ice cap. Engabreen is Norway’s fastest retreating glacier and is also home to a subglacial observatory.
According to Jackson, the glacier previously covered the lake but retreated during the 1930s. However, there was a glacier advance during the late 1980s and 1990s. During that time the glacier tongue came all the way down to the proglacial and moraine-dammed Lake Engabrevatnet at two meters above sea level, but the glacier has retreated about 600 meters since 1999––with one third of that occurring in just the last two years. The glacier terminus now sits about 140 meters above sea level.
Jackson is a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate chapter on high mountains.
The nearly 40-square kilometer Engabreen Glacier (also referred to as Engenbreen) is also the location of the Svartisen Subglacial Laboratory. The lab is situated under 200 meters of ice, with direct access to the glacier bed, and has been the site of unique glaciological experiments since 1992. Remarkably, the subglacial science center includes the following facilities for researchers:
- Fully-equipped living quarters with beds for up to 8 researchers in four bedrooms, kitchen with cooking facilities, dining/living area, bathroom and shower.
- Three laboratory rooms, freezer and workshop;
- Hot-water system for melting subglacial tunnels;
- Electronics supplies, extensive tool inventory and heavy equipment;
- External telephone system.
The mass balance of Engabreen has been measured annually since 1970. Jackson said the measurements consist of accumulation measurements in May, to see how much snow accumulated over the previous winter, and minimum measurements in September, to see how much snow and ice melted during the summer. Since Engabreen is a maritime glacier with high snow accumulation and high melt rate, there are extra measurements in the winter and summer. Click here for a gallery of Engabreen images dating back to 1885.