Climate Change Svalbard

What Are They Doing?

The team traveled to Svalbard, Norway, located in the High Arctic to investigate how high latitude glaciers, melt-water streams, and sedimentation in lakes and fjords respond to climate change. The Svalbard region has been marked by the retreat of glaciers, reductions in sea ice, and measurable warming throughout the Holocene period, and more specifically during the last 90 years. The Svalbard archipelago has preserved geologic records of climate change since the last ice age and into the 20th century, which makes it an ideal location for this study.

Where Are They?

The team worked on and around the glaciers and lakes of Kapp Linne near their field camp at Isfjord Radio on western Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard arctic archipelago. The Svalbard archipelago is situated in the Arctic Ocean, north of mainland Europe, approximately mid-way between Norway and the North Pole.

Expedition Map


Well, another day spent at the base camp due to bear activity. The bears (mamma and her two cubs) wandered back to our camp sometime early Saturday morning. They were spotted swimming in the cove having a pretty good time. The cubs were not very good swimmers, but mamma was superb!. I got out my binocs and watched her swim to the shore and emerge out of the water and shake her massive body like a huge shaggy dog. She then walked up the embankment, waited for her cubs to get their act together after coming out of the water themselves and the three of them walked right along the trail...
    Friday morning we woke to news that there was a mother polar bear with two young cubs near base camp.  This of course was very exciting and we all hurried to the big windows near the kitchen to have a look.  We were forbidding to go outside and there were many calls placed to UNIS headquarters for counsel on our actions that day.  Polar bears are protected on Svalbard (the last hunt was in 1972) and there are strict laws against pressuring/harassing the bears.  They were about 200-300 meters away just poking around.  Photo ops were not good and not a single person had a serious zoom...
Thursday was a very full day of attaching temperature data loggers to rope with clinch ties, cleaning the funnels and baffles of the sediment traps, measuring the lines from buoy to rock anchor and placing the correct trap at the correct site in Linnevatnet. I spent much of the day concentrating on the data loggers and measuring and recording trap lengths. I also helped to deploy a few traps. Once again, hanging over the side of the boat, having just muscled the large rock anchor over the side, and attaching the traps to the rope in the icy water. The traps cannot be attached on land...
  Wednesday, the entire team set out for Kongressvatnet, the smaller, but very deep lake above Linnevatnet. The hike is about 45 minutes from the south shore of Linnevatnet and the first mile or so is up a very steep, rocky hill before it settles out into a flat walk the rest of the way (about another 1 1/2 miles). This lake is interesting because it is so deep, has very clear water and has higher chemical proprties due to an inlet with high hydrogen sulfate gas. The lake has such low turbididty because of low primary productivity (low algae) and it is not fed by the glacier, which would...
Tuesday,July, 24, Steve Roof and I hiked up the valley (in this case "up" is south) to service the "Galcier Cam" and check on the lichen stations. The hike was moderatly up hill over fine rock river plaine, large coarse rocks and then finally over moraines left by the glacier. The pace was brisk and the weather was overcast but comfortable at about 4 degrees celcius (39 F). I asked lots of questions to steve as we hiked and he patiently explained details like mass balance (the relationship between glacier formation and glacier degredation) and the multitude of...

Project Information

17 July 2007 to 2 August 2007
Location: Svalbard, Norway
Project Funded Title: Climate Change in Glacier-River-Lake Ecosystems in Svalbard, Norway

Meet the Team

Matt Moore's picture
Kents Hill School
Kents Hill, ME
United States

Matthew Moore teaches High School Biology, AP Environmental Science, Lake Ecology, Conservation Biology, and Field Biology at Kents Hill School in Kents, Maine. Mr. Moore is very interested in climate science, in particular how anthropogenic factors of climate change may be influencing arctic ecosystems and cultures. Mr. Moore was very happy to broaden his knowledge and skills by participating in this expedition in order to better teach young people about the Earth’s ecosystems and their role in it.

Mike Retelle's picture
Bates College
Lewiston, ME
United States

Dr. Mike Retelle is a Professor at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Dr. Retelle teaches courses that focus on Earth surface environments and records of environmental change.
Currently Dr. Retelle is involved in several research projects in high latitude areas of the North Atlantic region. He has worked in the Canadian Arctic since 1981 focusing on glacial and sea level history and records of climate change preserved in annually layered sediments in lakes. Dr. Retelle has been working in Svalbard since 2005 and has previously mentored numerous undergraduate students in the field through the National Science Foundation’s REU program (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) as well as several past PolarTREC teachers.

Steve Roof's picture
Hampshire College
Amherst, MA
United States

Dr. Steve Roof is an Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Science at Hampshire College. Professor Roof's teaching and research focus on environmental issues such as climate change, pollution, and land conservation. He consciously integrates the scientific, political, and social aspects of environmental problems in his classes and projects. He teaches and supervises projects in geology, climate change, resource conservation, land use planning, geographic information systems, environmental chemistry, and the evolution of scientific thought. He and his students travel frequently to Death Valley and the Southwest for climate change field research. He also coordinates the Svalbard REU program, taking undergraduate students to the High Arctic. To learn more about Dr. Roof, please visit his faculty biography page []