January 5, 2010

Rembesdalsskaka, Norway Current Retreat

Posted by Mauri Pelto

The Hardangerjøkulen Ice Cap is situated in southern Norway,150 km from the western coast. This elliptical shaped ice cap covers 73 square kilometers and ranges in altitude from 1020 to 1865 meters. It rises above the community of Finse offering access to snow year around. Norway has the most comprehensive glacier monitoring program in the world, mainly due to the heavy reliance on hydropower, for which glacier runoff is a key input. The Rembesdalsskaka drains west from the ice cap, the left side feeding the Rembesdalsvatnet Reservoir. The research is led by the The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE). Statkraft runs the Sima power station that is fed from Rembesdalsvatnet Reservoir and the larger Sysenvatn fed by the southern glaciers of Hardanger. This system produces 620 Mw of hydropower. The largest glacier draining the western side of the ice cap is the Rembesdalsskaka with an area of 17 square kilometers. Since the LIA maximum Rembesdalsskaka has retreated almost two kilometres, The ice cap decreased in volume from the Little ice Age until 1917, followed by an increase in ice cap volume and glacial advance until 1928, . After this a period with high negative mass balances cause a rapid retreat of Hardangerjøkulen until 1950. Retreat continued until 1961, but the rate declined. From 1961 to 1995 mass balances increased, with the highest balances in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. This resulted in an advance of Rembesdalsskaka. Since the early 1990’s mass balance has been negative, with exceptionally negative years in. This has led to the retreat of the Rembesdalsskaka each year from 2000-2009 a total of 307 meters. The retreat is measured each year from a benchmark painted on rock beyond the terminus, reported to the NVE and then to the World Glacier Monitoring Service. In 2009 the NVE reported 19 glaciers retreated, 3 were stationary and one advanced.