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Reconstructing the Little Ice Age extent of Langfjordjøkelen, northernmost Arctic Norway, as a baseline for assessing centennial-scale icefield recession

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Current warming in the Arctic is occurring at a rate two to three times higher than that of the rest of the world, leading to rapid glacier wastage. In northernmost Arctic Norway, the plateau icefield Langfjordjøkelen has experienced the greatest mass loss of all Norwegian glaciers in recent decades. Here, we examine this excessive decline in a centennial-scale context through geomorphological mapping and the analysis of historical aerial photographs and maps. These methods allow us to reconstruct Langfjordjøkelen’s maximum Little Ice Age (LIA) extent (~1925), which provides an important baseline for a long-term assessment of icefield change. At the LIA maximum, Langfjordjøkelen covered an area of 14.9 km2. A comparison of the LIA dimensions with the icefield extent in 1891/1902, as displayed on a historical map, reveals a substantial overestimation of the map-based glacier outline. The post-LIA evolution of Langfjordjøkelen has been characterised by sustained high rates of glacier recession. By 2018, the icefield had lost 57 % (8.5 km2) of its original LIA area, at a rate of 9 % 10a-1, and its outlet glaciers had reduced in average length by 42 % (1 km), at a rate of 11 m a-1. Langfjordjøkelen’s areal decline has been greater than that of Norwegian ice masses at lower latitudes with available and comparable long-term glacier change data. This indicates that there is a significant latitudinal variation in Norwegian glacier response to 20th century warming, likely influenced by an enhanced warming signal in Arctic regions compared to the rest of Norway.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolar Research
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 26 Mar 2020

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  • Langfjordjøkelen-Weber_et_al.-PolarRes.-Accepted

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