Skip to main content Accesibility Help

Simulating climatic mass balance, seasonal snow development and associated freshwater runoff in the Kongsfjord basin, Svalbard (1980–2016)

  • ANKIT PRAMANIK (a1) (a2) (a3), WARD VAN PELT (a4), JACK KOHLER (a1) and THOMAS V. SCHULER (a2) (a5)

The Kongsfjord basin in northwest Svalbard is the site of a number of interdisciplinary studies concerned with the effect of fresh water from seasonal snow and glacier melt on the physical and biological environment. We use an energy-balance model coupled with a subsurface snow model to simulate the long-term climatic mass-balance evolution of the glaciers and the seasonal snow development of nonglacierized parts of the Kongsfjord basin. Runoff from both glacierized and nonglacierized parts of the basin is simulated to quantify the fresh water flux to the fjord. The model is calibrated with long-term mass-balance data measured at four glaciers, and with automatic weather station data. The simulated area-averaged climatic mass balance for the whole basin is positive (+0.23 m w.e. a−1) over the period 1980–2016; however, the trend for net mass balance is not statistically significant over the simulation period, despite the observed ongoing summer warming. Refreezing equals 0.24 m w.e. a−1, which is equivalent to 17% of the total mass gain from precipitation and moisture deposition. Total runoff comprises contributions from seasonal snow in the nonglacierized area (16%) and glacier discharge (84%). Model time series shows a significant increasing trend for annual glacier runoff (6.83 × 106 m3 a−1) over the simulation period.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Simulating climatic mass balance, seasonal snow development and associated freshwater runoff in the Kongsfjord basin, Svalbard (1980–2016)
      Available formats
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Simulating climatic mass balance, seasonal snow development and associated freshwater runoff in the Kongsfjord basin, Svalbard (1980–2016)
      Available formats
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Simulating climatic mass balance, seasonal snow development and associated freshwater runoff in the Kongsfjord basin, Svalbard (1980–2016)
      Available formats
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike licence (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the same Creative Commons licence is included and the original work is properly cited. The written permission of Cambridge University Press must be obtained for commercial re-use.
Corresponding author
Correspondence: Ankit Pramanik<>
Hide All
Aas, KS and 6 others (2016) The climatic mass balance of Svalbard glaciers: a 10-year simulation with a coupled atmosphere–glacier mass balance model. Cryosphere, 10(3), 10891104
Arnold, NS, Rees, WG, Hodson, AJ and Kohler, J (2006) Topographic controls on the surface energy balance of a high Arctic valley glacier. J. Geophys. Res., 111(F2), F02011 (doi: 10.1029/2005jf000426)
Bliss, A, Hock, R and Radić, V (2014) Global response of glacier runoff to twenty-first century climate change. J. Geophys. Res.- Earth Surf., 119(4), 717730
Bring, A and 9 others (2016) Arctic terrestrial hydrology: a synthesis of processes, regional effects, and research challenges. J. Geophys. Res.: Biogeo., 121(3), 621649
Bruland, O and Hagen, JO (2002) Glacial mass balance of Austre Brøggerbreen (Spitsbergen), 1971–1999, modelled with a precipitation-run-off model. Polar Res., 21(1), 109121
Burton, DJ, Dowdeswell, JA, Hogan, KA and Noormets, R (2016) Marginal fluctuations of a Svalbard surge-type tidewater glacier, Blomstrandbreen, since the Little Ice Age: a record of three surges. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 48(2), 411426
Church, JA and 9 others (2011) Revisiting the Earth's sea-level and energy budgets from 1961 to 2008. Geophys. Res. Lett., 38(18), L18601 (doi: 10.1029/2011gl048794)
Cowton, T, Slater, D, Sole, A, Goldberg, D and Nienow, P (2015) Modeling the impact of glacial runoff on fjord circulation and submarine melt rate using a new subgrid-scale parameterization for glacial plumes. J. Geophys. Res.- Oceans, 120(2), 796812
Dadic, R, Mott, R, Lehning, M and Burlando, P (2010) Wind influence on snow depth distribution and accumulation over glaciers. J. Geophys. Res.- Earth Surf., 115, F01012 (doi: 10.1029/2009jf001261)
Dee, DP and 35 others (2011) The ERA-interim reanalysis: configuration and performance of the data assimilation system. Q. J. Roy. Meteor. Soc., 137(656), 553597
Duethmann, D and 9 others (2015) Attribution of streamflow trends in snow and glacier melt-dominated catchments of the Tarim river, Central Asia. Water Resour. Res., 51(6), 47274750
Førland, EJ and Hanssen-Bauer, I (2000) Increased precipitation in the Norwegian Arctic: true or false? Climate Change, 46(4), 485509
Førland, EJ, Benestad, R, Hanssen-Bauer, I, Haugen, JE and Skaugen, TE (2011) Temperature and precipitation development at Svalbard 1900–2100. Adv. Meteorol., 2011, 893790 (doi: 10.1155/2011/893790)
Greuell, W and Konzelmann, T (1994) Numerical modelling of the energy-balance and the englacial temperature of the Greenland ice-sheet- calculations for the ETH-camp location (West Greenland, 1155 masl). Global Planet. Change, 9(1–2), 91114
Hagen, JO, Liestøl, O, Roland, E and Jørgensen, T (1993). Glacier atlas of Svalbard and Jan Mayen. Norsk Polarinstitutt, Oslo.
Hagen, JO, Melvold, K, Eiken, T, Isaksson, E and Lefauconnier, B (1999) Mass balance methods on Kongsvegen, Svalbard. Geogr. Ann. A., 81A(4), 593601
Hagen, JO, Kohler, J, Melvold, K and Winther, JG (2003) Glaciers in Svalbard: mass balance, runoff and freshwater flux. Polar Res., 22(2), 145159
Hansen, BB and 8 others (2014) Warmer and wetter winters: characteristics and implications of an extreme weather event in the high Arctic. Environ. Res. Lett., 9(11), 114021 (doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/11/114021)
Hock, R (2003) Temperature index melt modelling in mountain areas. J. Hydro., 282(1–4), 104115
Hock, R (2005) Glacier melt: a review of processes and their modelling. Prog. Phys. Geog., 29(3), 362391
Hodgkins, R, Cooper, R, Wadham, J and Tranter, M (2005). Interannual variability in the spatial distribution of winter accumulation at a high-Arctic glacier (Finsterwalderbreen, Svalbard), and its relationship with topography. Ann. Glaciol 42, 243248
How, P and 9 others (2017) Rapidly changing subglacial hydrological pathways at a tidewater glacier revealed through simultaneous observations of water pressure, supraglacial lakes, meltwater plumes and surface velocities. Cryosphere, 11(6), 26912710
Huss, M and Farinotti, D (2012) Distributed ice thickness and volume of all glaciers around the globe. J. Geophys. Res.- Earth Surf., 117, F04010 (doi: 10.1029/2012jf002523)
IPCC (2013). Summary for Policymakers. In Stocker, TF, Qin, D, Plattner, G-K, Tignor, M, Allen, SK, Boschung, J, Nauels, A, Xia, Y, Bex, V and Midgley, PM, eds. Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA. 9–23
Jacob, T, Wahr, J, Pfeffer, WT and Swenson, S (2012) Recent contributions of glaciers and ice caps to sea level rise. Nature, 482(7386), 514518
Jeelani, G, Feddema, JJ, van der Veen, CJ and Stearns, L (2012) Role of snow and glacier melt in controlling river hydrology in Liddar watershed (western Himalaya) under current and future climate. Water Resour. Res., 48, W12508 (doi: 10.1029/2011wr011590)
Kääb, A, Lefauconnier, B and Melvold, K (2005) Flow field of Kronebreen, Svalbard, using repeated Landsat 7 and ASTER data. Ann. Glaciol., 42, 713
Kohler, J (2013) Mass balance for glaciers near Ny-Ålesund [Data set] Norwegian Polar Institute. (doi: 10.21334/npolar.2013.ad6c4c5a)
Kohler, J and Aanes, R (2004) Effect of winter snow and ground-icing on a Svalbard reindeer population: results of a simple snowpack model. Arct. Antarct. Alp. Res., 36(3), 333341
Kohler, J and 7 others (2007) Acceleration in thinning rate on western Svalbard glaciers. Geophys. Res. Lett., 34(18), L18502 (doi: 10.1029/2007gl030681)
Kohler, J, König, M, Nuth, C and Villaflor, G (2018). Svalbard tidewater glacier front database [Data set] Norwegian Polar Institute. (doi: 10.21334/npolar.2018.7cd67b1a)
König, M, Nuth, C, Kohler, J, Moholdt, G and Pettersen, R (2014). Global land Ice measurements from space, Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.
Lefauconnier, B and Hagen, JO (1990) Glaciers and Climate in Svalbard: Statistical Analysis and Reconstruction of the Brøggerbreen Mass Balance for the Last 77 Years. Ann. Glaciol., 14, 148152
Lefauconnier, B, Hagen, JO, Pinglot, JF and Pourchet, M (1994a) Mass balance estimates on the glacier complex Kongsvegen and Sveabreen, Spitsbergen, Svalbard, using radioactive layers J. Glaciol., 40(135), 368376
Lefauconnier, B, Hagen, JO and Rudant, JP (1994b) Flow speed and calving rate of Kongsbreen glacier, Svalbard, using SPOT images. Polar Res., 13(1), 5965
Lehning, M, Löwe, H, Ryser, M and Raderschall, N (2008) Inhomogeneous precipitation distribution and snow transport in steep terrain. Water Resour. Res., 44(7), W07404 (doi: 10.1029/2007wr006545)
Liestøl, O (1988) The glaciers in the Kongsfjorden area, Spitsbergen. Norsk Geogr. Tidsskr., 42 (4), 231238
Lydersen, C and 12 others (2014) The importance of tidewater glaciers for marine mammals and seabirds in Svalbard, Norway. J. Marine Syst., 129, 452471
Machguth, H and 8 others (2013) The future sea-level rise contribution of Greenland's glaciers and ice caps. Environ. Res. Lett., 8(2), 025005 (doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/2/025005)
Manabe, S and Stouffer, RJ (1980) Sensitivity of a global climate model to an increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. J. Geophys. Res.- Oceans, 85(C10), 55295554
Mansell, D, Luckman, A and Murray, T (2012) Dynamics of tidewater surge-type glaciers in northwest Svalbard. J. Glaciol., 58(207), 110118
Martín-Español, A, Navarro, FJ, Otero, J, Lapazaran, JJ and Błaszczyk, M (2015) Estimate of the total volume of Svalbard glaciers, and their potential contribution to sea-level rise, using new regionally based scaling relationships. J. Glaciol., 61(225), 2941
Matuszko, D and Węglarczyk, S (2014) Effect of cloudiness on long-term variability in air temperature in Krakow. Int. J. Climatol., 34(1), 145154
Meier, MF and 7 others (2007) Glaciers dominate eustatic sea-level rise in the 21st century. Science, 317(5841), 10641067
Mernild, SH, Liston, GE and Hiemstra, CA (2014) Northern hemisphere glacier and ice cap surface mass balance and contribution to sea level rise. J. Climate, 27(15), 60516073
Mernild, SH and 5 others (2016) The Andes Cordillera. Part IV: spatio-temporal freshwater run-off distribution to adjacent seas (1979–2014). Int. J. Climatol., 37, 31753196 (doi: 10.1002/joc.4922)
Moon, T, Ahlstrøm, A, Goelzer, H, Lipscomb, W and Nowicki, S (2018) Rising oceans guaranteed: arctic land ice loss and sea level rise. Curr. Clim. Change Rep., 4(3), 211222
Nordli, Ø, Przybylak, R, Ogilvie, AEJ and Isaksen, K (2014) Long-term temperature trends and variability on Spitsbergen: the extended Svalbard Airport temperature series, 1898–2012. Polar Res. 33, 21349 (doi: 10.3402/polar.v33.21349)
Norwegian Polar Institute (NPI) (2014). Terrengmodell Svalbard (S0 Terrengmodell) [data set]. Norwegian Polar Institute. (doi: 10.21334/npolar.2014.dce53a47)
Nowak, A and Hodson, A (2013) Hydrological response of a high-Arctic catchment to changing climate over the past 35 years: a case study of Bayelva watershed, Svalbard. Polar Res., 32(1), 19691
Nowak, A and Hodson, A (2015) On the biogeochemical response of a glacierized high Arctic watershed to climate change: revealing patterns, processes and heterogeneity among micro-catchments. Hydrol. Process., 29(6), 15881603
Nuth, C, Schuler, TV, Kohler, J, Altena, B and Hagen, JO (2012) Estimating the long-term calving flux of kronebreen, Svalbard, from geodetic elevation changes and mass-balance modelling. J. Glaciol., 58(207), 119133
Nuth, C and 7 others (2013) Decadal changes from a multi-temporal glacier inventory of Svalbard. Cryosphere, 7(5), 16031621
Østby, TI, Schuler, TV, Hagen, JO, Hock, R and Reijmer, LH (2013) Parameter uncertainty, refreezing and surface energy balance modelling at Austfonna ice cap, Svalbard, 2004–08. Ann. Glaciol., 54(63), 229240
Østby, TI and 5 others (2017) Diagnosing the decline in climatic mass balance of glaciers in Svalbard over 1957–2014. Cryosphere, 11(1), 191215
Petersen, L, Pellicciotti, F, Juszak, I, Carenzo, M and Brock, B (2013) Suitability of a constant air temperature lapse rate over an Alpine glacier: testing the Greuell and Böhm model as an alternative. Ann. Glaciol., 54(63), 120130
Pfeffer, WT and 76 others (2014) The Randolph Glacier Inventory: a globally complete inventory of glaciers. J. Glaciol., 60(221), 537552
Poinar, K, Joughin, I, Lenaerts, JTM and van den Broeke, MR (2017) Englacial latent-heat transfer has limited influence on seaward ice flux in western Greenland. J. Glaciol., 63(237), 116
Radić, V and Hock, R (2010) Regional and global volumes of glaciers derived from statistical upscaling of glacier inventory data. J. Geophys. Res.- Earth Surf., 115, F01010 (doi: 10.1029/2009jf001373)
Radić, V and Hock, R (2011) Regionally differentiated contribution of mountain glaciers and ice caps to future sea-level rise. Nat. Geosci., 4(2), 9194
Rasmussen, LA and Kohler, J (2007) Mass balance of three Svalbard glaciers reconstructed back to 1948. Polar Res., 26(2), 168174
Reijmer, CH and Hock, R (2008) Internal accumulation on Storglaciären, Sweden, in a multi-layer snow model coupled to a distributed energy- and mass-balance model. J. Glaciol., 54(184), 6172
Reijmer, CH, van den Broeke, MR, Fettweis, X, Ettema, J and Stap, LB (2012) Refreezing on the Greenland ice sheet: a comparison of parameterizations. Cryosphere, 6(4), 743762
Rippin, D and 6 others (2003) Changes in geometry and subglacial drainage of Midre Lovénbreen, Svalbard, determined from digital elevation models. Earth Surf. Proc. Land., 28(3), 273298
Schellenberger, T, Dunse, T, Kääb, A, Kohler, J and Reijmer, CH (2015) Surface speed and frontal ablation of Kronebreen and Kongsbreen, NW Svalbard, from SAR offset tracking. Cryosphere, 9(6), 23392355
Schneider, T and Jansson, P (2004) Internal accumulation in firn and its significance for the mass balance of Storglaciären, Sweden. J. Glaciol., 50(168), 2534
Serreze, MC and Francis, JA (2006) The Arctic amplification debate. Climate Change, 76(3–4), 241264
Serreze, MC, Barrett, AP, Stroeve, JC, Kindig, DN and Holland, MM (2009) The emergence of surface-based Arctic amplification. Cryosphere, 3(1), 1119
Smith, RB and Barstad, I (2004) A linear theory of orographic precipitation. J. Atmos. Sci., 61(12), 13771391
Sund, M and Eiken, T (2010) Recent surges on Blomstrandbreen, Comfortlessbreen and Nathorstbreen, Svalbard. J. Glaciol., 56(195), 182184
Sundfjord, A and 11 others (2017) Effects of glacier runoff and wind on surface layer dynamics and Atlantic Water exchange in Kongsfjorden, Svalbard; a model study. Estuar. Coast. Shelf. S., 187, 260272
Valentin, MM, Hogue, TS and Hay, LE (2018) Hydrologic regime changes in a high-latitude glacierized watershed under future climate conditions. Water. (Basel), 10(2), 128 (doi: 10.3390/w10020128)
Van Pelt, W and Kohler, J (2015) Modelling the long-term mass balance and firn evolution of glaciers around Kongsfjorden, Svalbard. J. Glaciol., 61(228), 731744
Van Pelt, WJJ and 5 others (2012) Simulating melt, runoff and refreezing on Nordenskiöldbreen, Svalbard, using a coupled snow and energy balance model. Cryosphere, 6(3), 641659
Van Pelt, WJJ and 5 others (2014) Inverse estimation of snow accumulation along a radar transect on Nordenskiöldbreen, Svalbard. J. Geophys. Res.- Earth Surf., 119(4), 816835
Van Pelt, WJJ and 6 others (2016a) Multidecadal climate and seasonal snow conditions in Svalbard. J. Geophys. Res.- Earth Surf., 121(11), 21002117
Van Pelt, WJJ, Pohjola, VA and Reijmer, CH (2016b) The changing impact of snow conditions and refreezing on the mass balance of an idealized Svalbard Glacier. Front. Earth. Sci. 4, 102 (doi: 10.3389/feart.2016.00102)
Van Tricht, K and 8 others (2016) Clouds enhance Greenland ice sheet meltwater runoff. Nat. Commun. 7, 10266 (doi: 10.1038/ncomms10266)
Verbunt, M and 5 others (2003) The hydrological role of snow and glaciers in alpine river basins and their distributed modeling. J. Hydro., 282(1–4), 3655
Westermann, S, Boike, J, Langer, M, Schuler, TV and Etzelmüller, B (2011) Modeling the impact of wintertime rain events on the thermal regime of permafrost. Cryosphere, 5(4), 945959
World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) (2017). Global glacier change bulletin No. 2 (2014–2015). In Zemp, M, Nussbaumer, SU, Gärtner-Roer, I, Huber, J, Machguth, H, Paul, F and Hoelzle, M, eds. ICSU(WDS)/IUGG(IACS)/UNEP/ UNESCO/WMO, World Glacier Monitoring Service, Zurich, Switzerland, 28–29, 244 pp., (doi: 10.5904/wgms-fog-2017-10).
Wright, AP and 5 others (2007) Modeling the refreezing of meltwater as superimposed ice on a high Arctic glacier: a comparison of approaches. J. Geophys. Res., 112(F4) (doi: 10.1029/2007jf000818)
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Journal of Glaciology
  • ISSN: 0022-1430
  • EISSN: 1727-5652
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-glaciology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed