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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Resolving the Impact of Changing Arctic Precipitation on Svalbard Ice Mass Balance

Awarded: NOK 99,999

The Arctic is warming at almost four times the mean global rate (Rantanen et al., 2022) and is becoming increasingly wetter: a trend that is predicted to continue as the Arctic Ocean becomes Atlantified, with rapid decline in sea-ice which is now at an all-time minimum (Bailey et al., 2021). Terrestrial ice masses across the Arctic store ~7.5 m global sea-level equivalent of freshwater (AMAO, 2017), and their net mass budget - which is a continually adjusting sum of snow accumulation verses ice loss through melting and calving. Scientific evidence (Box etal., 2022) and media coverage have recently highlighted a new feedback - rainfall - in amplifying Arctic ice loss and sea level rise through rain-driven melt events (Doyle et al., 2015). These impacts mean that while the observed trend of enhanced Arctic precipitation falling as snow throughout the early 21st Century has (partially) offset ice loss - it is now increasingly falling as rain with far reaching consequences for net mass balance and global sea-level rise. This project will test and empirically quantify the hypothesis that ongoing Barents Sea warming and sea-ice loss is driving enhanced evaporation, latent heat flux and precipitation, which is - and will - increasingly fall as rain to accelerate Svalbard's terrestrial ice mass loss, in contrast to mitigating it through snowfall accumulation. The field-based project will combine continuous stabile isotope water vapour measurements from Zeppelin Observatory (since 2019) and meteorological data with firn-cores acquired from Lomonosovfonna (& other potential locations) to quantify changing sources, sinks, amounts and phases of precipitation falling across Svalbard. These data will be used to constrain moisture back-trajectory analysis/self-organized mapping of key sources and region climate modeling of how mass balance of Svalbard's glaciers and ice caps are currently responding to changing precipitation patterns as well as their future SLR contribution.

Funding scheme:

SSF-Svalbard Science Forum