Latvian scientists to study the impact of climate change on Svalbard glaciers

The study of the Svalbard glaciers using the methods available to Latvian scientists may provide answers to questions about the impact of climate change on glaciers, said the participants of the next Latvian polar expedition in an interview with Latvian Television on August 2.

The Sixth Latvian Polar Expedition will head to Svalbard to probe into the mysteries of the surging glaciers. After decades or even 150 years, these glaciers advance upwards at a velocity reaching above ten meters per day. Whilst most glaciers recede under the influence of climate change, the behaviour of surging glaciers remains an enigmatic phenomenon.

The expedition will also try to find contaminants that have already been analysed in other studies. The samples will be examined with the latest technologies to try to understand how pollution has migrated to these glaciers, explained Ingus Pērkons, a researcher at BIOR scientific institute.

Polish scientists have been conducting research in the area for a long time already, but they have little data on the thickness and internal structure of the glaciers. Latvian scientists have developed a special Geodar which allows for a detailed, high-precision field analysis of the structure and thickness of glaciers.

“We know that glaciers are retreating at a fast pace. In Iceland, for example, glaciers retreat 200 meters per year. The surging Svalbard glaciers are different, and there are also the polythermal glaciers whose internal thermal structure is very complex, and it is by studying this structure that we can find out how these glaciers are reacting to climate change. It could be that they aren’t merely receding, but also stabilizing on the bed,” said one of the scientists, Kristaps Lamsters.

The expedition will last 20 days, while processing the data and then publishing the results may take up to a year and a half.

The information was provided by the participants of the expedition – geologists and researchers at the Faculty of Geography and Earth Sciences of the University of Latvia – Dr Kristaps Lamsters and Dr Jānis Karušs.

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