Changes of Breiðamerkurjökull glacier, SE-iceland, from its late nineteenth century maximum to the present

Snævarr Guðmundsson*, H. Björnsson, F. Pálsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


We report an average mass balance of −0.6 ± 0.1 m w.e. a−1 of the maritime Breiðamerkurjökull outlet glacier of Vatnajökull (∼906 km2, reaching 10–1700 m a.s.l.) from its Little Ice Age high stand (LIAmax) of about 1890–2010. This equals an average supplement of ∼18 ± 3 m3 s−1 to the drainage basin of the Breiðamerkursandur outwash plain. Our estimates are derived by comparing digital elevation models (DEMs) of the glacier surfaces from 2010 (LiDAR) 1945 and at the LIAmax. The models are derived from a LiDAR DEM surveyed in 2010–2011, topographic maps from 1904 and 1945, geomorphological field evidence, aerial and oblique photographs, and written historical documents. Over the 120 years, the glacier terminus retreated 4–7 km, and a land area of ∼115 km2 (0.95 km2 a−1) was exposed. The total volume of 70 ± 8 km3 water equivalent was lost (equivalent to 0.18 ± 0.02 mm of global sea-level rise), at an average rate of 0.6 ± 0.1 km3 a−1. The lowest parts of the glacier terminus lowered by up to 200 m, but above 1500 m the elevation change was minor. About 2/3 of the ice loss occurred after the mid-twentieth century.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)338-352
Number of pages15
JournalGeografiska Annaler, Series A: Physical Geography
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography.

Other keywords

  • Breiðamerkurjökull
  • DEM
  • Glacier
  • Glacier reconstruction
  • Iceland
  • Little Ice Age


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