Holocene glacial landscapes of Svalbard

Wesley R. Farnsworth, Lis Allaart

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in bookResearchpeer-review


The High Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is located in a climatically sensitive position between the warm North Atlantic Drift (northern extent of the Gulf Stream) and the lower limit of perennial sea ice. At present, the mountainous group of islands is nearly 57% glaciated, covered by varying size ice caps, valley and cirque glaciers terminating in both marine and terrestrial environments. At the onset of the Early Holocene, Svalbard was near completely glaciated, still largely inundated by remnants of Svalbard Barents Sea Ice Sheet. In response to shifts in climate, large portions of the archipelago became ice-free during the Early and Middle Holocene. The regional Holocene Thermal Maximum and glacial minimum (during the Middle Holocene c. 8–6 ka) were followed by the Neoglaciation (during the Late Holocene c. 4.2 ka to CE 1900), when nearly 75% of the region was reglaciated. At present, Svalbard’s glaciers are in a dynamic phase of overall retreat in response to global warming. Svalbard’s glaciers have and continue to rapidly respond to shifts in climate, serving as a barometer for the state of the Arctic cryosphere. In this chapter, we describe Svalbard’s glacial landforms and synthesise the Holocene glacier history in hand with our understanding of the regional palaeoclimatic and environmental evolution.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEuropean glacial landscapes
Subtitle of host publicationThe Holocene
EditorsDavid Palacios, Philip D. Hughes, Vincent Jomelli, Luis M. Tanarro
Number of pages21
ISBN (Electronic)978-0-323-99712-6
Publication statusPublished - 2023

Programme Area

  • Programme Area 5: Nature and Climate


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