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The Cryosphere An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 5, issue 4
The Cryosphere, 5, 961–975, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
The Cryosphere, 5, 961–975, 2011
© Author(s) 2011. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 02 Nov 2011

Research article | 02 Nov 2011

Modelling the 20th and 21st century evolution of Hoffellsjökull glacier, SE-Vatnajökull, Iceland

G. Aðalgeirsdóttir1,2, S. Guðmundsson1, H. Björnsson1, F. Pálsson1, T. Jóhannesson3, H. Hannesdóttir1, S. Þ. Sigurðsson4, and E. Berthier5 G. Aðalgeirsdóttir et al.
  • 1Institute of Earth Sciences, University of Iceland, 101 Reykjavík, Iceland
  • 2Danish Meteorological Institute, Lyngbyvej 100, 2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
  • 3Icelandic Meteorological Office, Bústaðavegi 150, 105 Reykjavík, Iceland
  • 4Department of Computer Science, University of Iceland, 107 Reykjavík, Iceland
  • 5CNRS; Université de Toulouse, Laboratoire d'Etudes en Géophysique et Océanographie Spatiales (LEGOS); 14 Av. Ed. Belin, 31400 Toulouse, France

Abstract. The Little Ice Age maximum extent of glaciers in Iceland was reached about 1890 AD and most glaciers in the country have retreated during the 20th century. A model for the surface mass balance and the flow of glaciers is used to reconstruct the 20th century retreat history of Hoffellsjökull, a south-flowing outlet glacier of the ice cap Vatnajökull, which is located close to the southeastern coast of Iceland. The bedrock topography was surveyed with radio-echo soundings in 2001. A wealth of data are available to force and constrain the model, e.g. surface elevation maps from ~1890, 1936, 1946, 1989, 2001, 2008 and 2010, mass balance observations conducted in 1936–1938 and after 2001, energy balance measurements after 2001, and glacier surface velocity derived by kinematic and differential GPS surveys and correlation of SPOT5 images. The approximately 20% volume loss of this glacier in the period 1895–2010 is realistically simulated with the model. After calibration of the model with past observations, it is used to simulate the future response of the glacier during the 21st century. The mass balance model was forced with an ensemble of temperature and precipitation scenarios derived from 10 global and 3 regional climate model simulations using the A1B emission scenario. If the average climate of 2000–2009 is maintained into the future, the volume of the glacier is projected to be reduced by 30% with respect to the present at the end of this century. If the climate warms, as suggested by most of the climate change scenarios, the model projects this glacier to almost disappear by the end of the 21st century. Runoff from the glacier is predicted to increase for the next 30–40 yr and decrease after that as a consequence of the diminishing ice-covered area.

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