Articles | Volume 9, issue 3
The Cryosphere, 9, 945–956, 2015
The Cryosphere, 9, 945–956, 2015

Research article 07 May 2015

Research article | 07 May 2015

Future climate and surface mass balance of Svalbard glaciers in an RCP8.5 climate scenario: a study with the regional climate model MAR forced by MIROC5

C. Lang, X. Fettweis, and M. Erpicum C. Lang et al.
  • Département de Géographie, Université de Liège, Liège, Belgium

Abstract. We have performed a future projection of the climate and surface mass balance (SMB) of Svalbard with the MAR (Modèle Atmosphérique Régional) regional climate model forced by MIROC5 (Model for Interdisciplinary Research on Climate), following the RCP8.5 scenario at a spatial resolution of 10 km. MAR predicts a similar evolution of increasing surface melt everywhere in Svalbard followed by a sudden acceleration of melt around 2050, with a larger melt increase in the south compared to the north of the archipelago. This melt acceleration around 2050 is mainly driven by the albedo–melt feedback associated with the expansion of the ablation/bare ice zone. This effect is dampened in part as the solar radiation itself is projected to decrease due to a cloudiness increase. The near-surface temperature is projected to increase more in winter than in summer as the temperature is already close to 0 °C in summer. The model also projects a stronger winter west-to-east temperature gradient, related to the large decrease of sea ice cover around Svalbard. By 2085, SMB is projected to become negative over all of Svalbard's glaciated regions, leading to the rapid degradation of the firn layer.

Short summary
We simulated the 21st century Svalbard SMB with the regional model MAR (RCP8.5 scenario). Melt is projected to increase gently up to 2050 and then dramatically increase, with a larger increase in the south of the archipelago. This difference is due to larger ice albedo decrease in the south causing larger increase of absorbed solar radiation. The ablation area is projected to disappear over the entire Svalbard by 2085. The SMB decrease compared to present is projected to contribute 7mm to SLR.