Deciphering Svalbard’s climate history


By Paul Homewood

We are familiar with ice core data from Greenland showing that the climate there was warmer in the recent past. This study of ice cores in Svalbard, published in 2011 comes up with similar results:


During the past thousand years, the average winter temperature in Svalbard’s “capital” Longyearbyen has varied from minus 5 degrees Celsius around 1000 AD to minus 25 degrees around 1850.

“Stories about how cold it was in Svalbard during the golden age of hunting and trapping in the 19th century are not exaggerated,” says senior research scientist Elisabeth Isaksson. Using ice cores from three of Svalbard’s glaciers, she and her colleagues have reconstructed a thousand years of variations in winter temperatures for Longyearbyen and for Vardø at the northeastern tip of mainland Norway.

Temperatures and isotopes

Winter temperatures have been measured since 1911 in Longyearbyen and since 1840 in Vardø. Researchers from the…

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