New Research Projects Vatnajökull’s Surface Area in 2300 Skip to content

New Research Projects Vatnajökull’s Surface Area in 2300

By Yelena

Photo: Golli.

Europe’s largest glacier could be nearly gone by the year 2300, according to new doctoral research carried out in Iceland, RÚV reports. If Earth’s average temperature rises by four degrees Celsius, the glacier could be nearly gone within the next three centuries. The research is set to be published in the Journal of Glaciology shortly.

Vatnajökull glacier, located in Southeast Iceland, covers an area of 7,900km2 (4,900mi2), or about 8% of the country’s surface area. The glacier, alongside the country’s next-largest glaciers, Hofsjökull and Langjökull, has shrunk more over the past year than it has yearly over the past decade.

The study’s researchers modelled the glacier’s potential shrinkage based on different scenarios. They concluded that if Earth’s average temperature rises by two degrees, Vatnajökull’s surface area would decrease by 30-60% by the year 2300, the variance depending on other factors such as precipitation. If the temperature rises by four degrees Celsius, however, the glacier’s surface area is projected to decrease by 60% and up to nearly 100%.

“It really matters a lot for the country’s glaciers, whether we manage to keep emissions within the limits that the Paris Agreement has decided, to keep warming within two degrees, or if we continue to emit as we have been doing,” stated Guðfinna Aðalgeirsdóttir, Professor of Glaciology at the University of Iceland and one of the study’s authors. “If nothing is done that’s the way we are headed, and greenhouse gases will cause temperatures to rise about four degrees by the turn of the next century.”

Rising temperatures will act faster on Iceland’s other glaciers, according to Guðfinna. “Hofsjökull and Langjökull lie lower [in elevation] and they are smaller and they will probably decrease by 70-80% by the end of this century. So they will respond much faster than Vatnajökull.”

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