Snow joke! Norwegian island could SPLIT IN TWO warns Polish Arctic scientist
Polish researchers have discovered changes to the map of Norway, which could result in the country’s largest Arctic island splitting in two.
Bordering the Arctic Ocean, Spitsbergen is the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago, which belongs to Norway. It is also the only permanently populated one. In addition to humans, it is home to a variety of birds and mammals, including polar bears.
A Polish research station has been operating at Hornsund, the island’s southernmost fjord, since 1957.
Located in the fjord’s Isbjornhamna Bay, the Stanisław Siedlecki Polish Polar Station conducts year-round scientific research in areas including meteorology, seismology and the environment.
Spitsbergen has been in the spotlight amid concern about changes in climate, with Norwegian research showing that the archipelago has experienced winter warming of 7oC since 1971.
Now radar soundings by Polish researchers show that Spitsbergen could split in two as the Hornsundbreen glacier on the island retreats every year. This would create a new channel of water between the seas on either side of the island – effectively splitting the island.
“The conclusion coming from the surveys is that the glacier bed is below sea level and no obstacles have been identified that might prevent connection of the Barents Sea and Greenland Sea when glaciers have retreated,” Polish researcher Mariusz Grabiec told the Barents Observer.
A researcher at the University of Silesia and the Polish Centre for Polar Studies, Grabiec has been studying glaciers in Svalbard for the past twenty years.
His interests include the structure of glaciers, permafrost and measuring changes using cartographic methods, satellite images, analysis of laser altimetry data and ground surveying using satellite methods (DGPS).
He and his team from the University of Silesia made radar soundings over a distance of 40 km to measure the glacier depth and subglacial topography.
Since the end of the 1800s, the front of the Hornsundbreen glacier has retreated by over 14 km, leaving fewer than 6 km between the Hornsund fjord and the Barents Sea on the other side of the island.
“Based on the last few decades of glacier retreat rate, we estimated that the strait opening might happen sometime between 2055 and 2065,” Grabiec told the website, adding that this could happen even sooner.