Post-Little Ice Age volume loss of Kotárjökull glacier, SE-Iceland, derived from historical photography

Snævarr Guðmundsson*, Hrafnhildur Hannesdóttir, Helgi Björnsson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Kotárjökull is one of several outlet glaciers draining the ice-covered central volcano Öræfajökull in SE-Iceland. We estimate the average annual specific mass loss of the glacier, to be 0.22 m (water equivalent) over the post Little Ice Age period 1891–2011. The glacial recession corresponds to an areal decrease of 2.7 km2 (20%) and a volume loss of 0.4 km3 (30%). A surface lowering of 180 m is observed near the snout decreasing to negligible amounts above 1700 m elevation. This minimal surface lowering at high altitudes is supported by a comparison of the elevation of trigonometrical points on Öræfajökull’s plateau from the Danish General Staff map of 1904 and a recent LiDAR-based digital elevation model. Our estimates are derived from a) three pairs of photographs from 1891 and 2011, b) geomorphological field evidence delineating the maximum glacier extent at the end of the Little Ice Age, and c) the high-resolution digital elevation model from 2010– 2011. The historical photographs of Frederick W.W. Howell from 1891 were taken at the end of the Little Ice Age in Iceland, thus providing a reference of the maximum glacier extent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)97-110
Number of pages14
Issue number62
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We used the LiDAR-data on a processing stage with permission from the Icelandic Meteorological Office and the Institute of Earth Sciences at the University of Iceland. We thank Þorsteinn Sæmunds-son, astronomer for helpful discussion on calculating glacier surface elevation changes by comparing dupli-cate photographs. Discussions with Eyjólfur Magnús-son, Finnur Pálsson on ice thickness, ice flow, and the response of glaciers to climate change, and Magnús Tumi Guðmundsson are acknowledged. Authors ap-preciate constructive comments by reviewers, Patrick Appelgate and Þorsteinn Þorsteinsson. This work was supported by the Fund of the Kvísker siblings. This publication is contribution number 17 of the Nordic Centre of Excellence SVALI, Stability and Variations of Arctic Land Ice, funded by the Nordic Top-level Research Initiative (TRI).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2012, Iceland Glaciological Society. All rights reserved.


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