Norway's glaciers melting

Some of the biggest tourist attractions in Norway are melting as never before. Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) is concerned.
The Norwegian glaciers are getting smaller and smaller. The average decline of glaciers in Norway, during the period 2001 to 2011, is 194 meters.
“Of the 33 glaciers in Norway, 28 of these have melted more in the past year than ever before. Four glaciers are stationary while only one increased in quantity,” said NVE in a statement.
“I think it is worrying that the glaciers are getting smaller very quickly,” says Hallgeir Elvehøy, senior engineer at NVE.
“Melting is also a concern for outdoor recreation and tourism. In many places the glacier draws tourists to the place.  It is not as exciting to see a glacier high up the mountainside. People want to see it close, and preferably be able to touch it.”

Bondhus Glacier has had a dramatic decline from 1990 (left) to 2011 (right) Photo: NVE

Bondhus Glacier has had a dramatic decline from 1990 (left) to 2011 (right) Photo: NVE

Some of the biggest tourist attractions in Norway are melting as never before. Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE) is concerned.

The Norwegian glaciers are getting smaller and smaller. The average decline of glaciers in Norway, during the period 2001 to 2011, is 194 meters.

“Of the 33 glaciers in Norway, 28 of these have melted more in the past year than ever before. Four glaciers are stationary while only one increased in quantity,” said NVE in a statement.

“I think it is worrying that the glaciers are getting smaller very quickly,” says Hallgeir Elvehøy, senior engineer at NVE.

“Melting is also a concern for outdoor recreation and tourism. In many places the glacier draws tourists to the place.  It is not as exciting to see a glacier high up the mountainside. People want to see it close, and preferably be able to touch it.”

He says that the first measurements of glaciers in Norway took place around the turn of the century.
“It was around 1900 the first measurements were made, and the time period was the end of what we call the Little Ice Age. The glaciers were great then, but they have melted especially in recent years,” he said.
It is Bødalsbreen in Stryn that has had the largest melting in 2011. The glacier has receded a total of 67 meters. The second is the Brenndal Glacier, also located in Stryn. It has become 60 meters shorter.
“The cause of the increased melting are changes in climate, it has become warmer, especially in recent years. More of the glaciers melt in the summer than snow falls in the winter.
“If this continues, that this heat keeps up, or that it gets even hotter in the coming years, the glaciers could disappear completely. But it will take at least 100 years depending on if the climate we have now holds, or whether it increases,” says Elvehøy.
The tourist industry is concerned. “This is one of the biggest attractions we have, and there is clear concern about the melting. Briksdalsbreen for example, has broken into two parts, and we fear that the smallest part will completely melt away in the spring,” says general manager in Stryn and Nordfjord, Synnøve Aabrekk.
Yet she believes that tourism will survive these natural changes.
“What happens now is that tour companies are developing alternative glacier experiences. There will be changes in the environment in the future and then it becomes important to monitor the changes and still offer experiences, but in a different way,” she says, and ensures that people will experience the glaciers in the years to come.

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