Reveals more of Svalbard’s glacial history

Reveals more of Svalbard’s glacial history

Top image: Endre Før Gjermundsen on fieldwork in northwestern Spitsbergen in 2008. Photo: Anne Hormes/UNIS.

Endre Før Gjermundsen’s doctoral research shows that the ice cover over Svalbard during the last ice age started melting far earlier and the melt period lasted longer than previously assumed. Gjermundsen will defend his PhD thesis on 8 March in Oslo.  

6 March 2013
Press release from the University of Oslo and UNIS

The ice cover over Svalbard during the last ice age (ca. 30,000-11,700 years ago) has been the focal point of discussion in regards to thickness, extent and the melting rate. In his doctoral research, Endre Før Gjermundsen has collected data from previously unexplored high-lying inland areas of Spitsbergen, in order to get more knowledge about the distinctive character of the Svalbard glacial history.
The data collected show that the inner parts of the glacial cover in northern Spitsbergen started melting several thousand years earlier than previously assumed, about 25,000-20,000 years ago. The melting period was longer and the withdrawal of the ice cover from the outermost inland areas did start as late as 15,000 years ago. The glacier melting in the northernmost fjords lasted for several millennia between 25,000 and 11,000 years ago.

In addition, Gjermundsen‘s work has shown that today’s alpine peaks in northwestern Spitsbergen are surprisingly old, and these peaks have survived the last glacial cycles without much interruption (modification). To the contrary, the last glaciation cycles have protected and conserved the high-lying areas of the alpine topography. His results also indicate that the mountain peaks in northwestern Spitsbergen have been covered by ice for a much longer period than they have been ice free during the past one million years.

Extended field campaigns in spectacular, but remote and inhospitable areas of Spitsbergen have resulted in this unique data collection. Samples from large boulders collected in the lowland areas and as well as from high mountain ridges along with bedrock samples from mountains all over northern have been collected in order to perform exposure dating measurements. Exposure dating measurements tell us when the ice melted away from the rock or mountain, in order words, when the specific area was ice free.

Endre Før Gjermundsen will defend his PhD thesis entitled “Quaternary glacial history of northern Spitsbergen, Svalbard; cosmogenic nuclide constraints on configuration, chronology and ice dynamics” at the University of Oslo on 8 March at 13:15.

He will give a trial lecture entitled “Continental interglacials and major interstadials in Europe – stratigraphy, correlation and timing” on 8 March at 10:15. Both lectures will take place at the University of Oslo.

Endre Før Gjermundsen, UNIS.

Endre Før Gjermuundsen. Photo: Anne Hormes/UNIS.

About the candidate:
Endre Før Gjermundsen (born 1978) is from Østerdalen, Norway. He studied geography with a specialization in glaciology, remote sensing and GIS in Oslo and at the University of Otago, New Zealand and earned his MSc degree from University of Oslo in 2007. He started his PhD at UiO and UNIS in 2008.

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