Climate change is rapidly deteriorating the climatic signal in Svalbard glaciers

Spolaor, Andrea; Scoto, Federico; Larose, Catherine; Barbaro, Elena; Burgay, Francois; Bjorkman, Mats P.; Cappelletti, David; Dallo, Federico; de Blasi, Fabrizio; Divine, Dmitry; Dreossi, Giuliano; Gabrieli, Jacopo; Isaksson, Elisabeth; Kohler, Jack; Martma, Tonu; Schmidt, Louise S.; Schuler, Thomas V.; Stenni, Barbara; Turetta, Clara; Luks, Bartłomiej; Casado, Mathieu; Gallet, Jean-Charles

The Svalbard archipelago is particularly sensitive to climate change due to the relatively low altitude of its main ice fields and its geographical location in the higher North Atlantic, where the effect of Arctic amplification is more significant. The largest temperature increases have been observed during winter, but increasing summer temperatures, above the melting point, have led to increased glacier melt. Here, we evaluate the impact of this increased melt on the preservation of the oxygen isotope (inline-formulaδ18O) signal in firn records. inline-formulaδ18O is commonly used as a proxy for past atmospheric temperature reconstructions, and, when preserved, it is a crucial parameter to date and align ice cores. By comparing four different firn cores collected in 2012, 2015, 2017 and 2019 at the top of the Holtedahlfonna ice field (1100 m a.s.l.), we show a progressive deterioration of the isotope signal, and we link its degradation to the increased occurrence and intensity of melt events. Our findings indicate that, starting from 2015, there has been an escalation in melting and percolation resulting from changes in the overall atmospheric conditions. This has led to the deterioration of the climate signal preserved within the firn or ice. Our observations correspond with the model's calculations, demonstrating an increase in water percolation since 2014, potentially reaching deeper layers of the firn. Although the inline-formulaδ18O signal still reflects the interannual temperature trend, more frequent melting events may in the future affect the interpretation of the isotopic signal, compromising the use of Svalbard ice cores. Our findings highlight the impact and the speed at which Arctic amplification is affecting Svalbard's cryosphere.

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Spolaor, Andrea / Scoto, Federico / Larose, Catherine / et al: Climate change is rapidly deteriorating the climatic signal in Svalbard glaciers. 2024. Copernicus Publications.

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