Evidence towards a thermal lag in the response of Kårsaglaciären, Northern Sweden, to climate change

David Rippin, Jonathan Carrivick, Christopher Williams

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent topographical and ground-penetrating radar (GPR) surveys of Kårsaglaciären, which is a small (<1km2) and thin (<56 m) mountain glacier in Arctic Sweden, show that there are small areas of temperate ice in the lowermost part of the glacier. This is curious because we would expect such a small and thin glacier to have a fully cold ablation zone. Specifically, with our analyses of present glacier geometry and thickness and of the prevailing climate, we are unable to explain the presence of temperate ice within the snout of Kårsaglaciären using prevailing models of glacier thermal structure. This leads us to suggest that the presence of temperate ice within Kårsaglaciären is a remnant of a previous polythermal state that existed when the glacier was larger and thicker. Kårsaglaciären is thus out of synch with current geometry and climate and is exhibiting a ‘thermal lag’. We propose that, with time, Kårsaglaciären’s ablation zone and perhaps the entire glacier may well become fully cold as the
temperate zone shrinks further. We anticipate that such a thermal lag is likely to be present within other Arctic glaciers. A thermal lag and an evolution to a fully cold thermal state have significant implications for the dynamic behaviour of small Arctic glaciers and for meltwater production from them.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)895-903
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Glaciology
Issue number205
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011

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