A coupled surface mass balance and ice-flow model was used to predict the response of three ice caps on Severnaya Zemlya, Russian Arctic, to the present climate and to future climate changes as postulated by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Ice cap boundary conditions are derived from recent airborne geophysical surveying (Dowdeswell et al., 2002), and model inputs are constructed from available climate data. Model results indicate that, currently, the state of balance of ice caps on Severnaya Zemlya is dependent on their size. For small ice caps, such as Pioneer Ice Cap (area 199 km2), mass balance is extremely negative. Under current climate conditions, these relatively small ice caps are predicted to disappear within ∼1000 years. For larger ice caps, however, such as the Academy of Sciences Ice Cap (area 5586 km2), the accumulation zone is much larger, which results in these ice caps being approximately in balance today, but still susceptible to decay in future climate scenarios. When climate conditions are changed in the model, as predicted by the IPCC, the mass balance of all ice caps in Severnaya Zemlya is predicted to become negative within a 100 years or so. Although it is difficult to say with certainty the exact rate of decay, it is likely that ice loss from Severnaya Zemlya will contribute, over a period of a few hundred years, a rise in sea level of the order of a few centimeters.
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Vol. 38 • No. 1