Basal geothermal heat flow melts/collapses Hagafellsjökull Glacier in Iceland


West Antarctica, Greenland, the central Arctic Ocean Basin, Iceland, and now the Svalbard Island Chain have one thing in common: powerful and currently active geological forces—specifically geothermal heat flow and associated fluid release—are melting their glacial ice masses. This contention is supported by previous postings here, here, here, and here.

So where exactly is the Svalbard Island Chain, and of what importance is it? Thrust into prominence by recent reports of rapid ice melting in one specific continental glacier, these islands are located north of Iceland along the giant Mid-Atlantic / Arctic Mid-Ocean Rift Complex.

This broad geological region has been the focus of debate concerning the cause of what climate experts perceive as unnatural amounts of oceanic and continental glacial retreat due to man-made global warming. So how does the Svalbard Island Chain fit into this picture?

It sits smack dab in the heart of several recently active geologically induced geothermal heat and gas release events (see geologic map below).


First, Iceland’s eye-catching volcanism, which captured the curiosity of the world, erupted and its associated heat flow rapidly melted huge continental glaciers. It is important to understand that while pictures of Icelandic eruptions make good press, there is another very significant component to the Icelandic heat-flow story: “convective systems.”

Convective systems are associated with surface faults and fractures that penetrate deep into the earth (1-2 miles) and tap reservoirs of super-heated water, thereby transmitting this heated water back to the surface. Their effect can melt glaciers (see Hagafellsjökull Glacier Iceland photo above), form hot springs, and induce rapid increases in continental glacial velocities.

South of the Svalbard’s, a recently discovered 200-mile-long string of very active deep ocean hydrothermal vents indicates that this portion the rift system Nicknamed Loki’s Castle is well…heating up (see Figure1). Norwegian scientists refer to this region as Norway’s “Yellowstone” at the bottom of the sea.

Figure 1


Beginning in April 2014 and continuing to present day, Loki’s Castle has been rocked by numerous earthquakes, many of significant magnitude (see Figure 2). This earthquake swarm demonstrates that active and powerful geologic forces exist just south of the Svalbard Islands. Closer to, and west of the Svalbard Island Chain, a magnitude 5.4 earthquake was recorded in January 2015.

Figure 2


To the west, recent acceleration of Greenland’s Jacobshaven Glacier is almost certainly related to geologically induced heat flow. This glacier was actually growing and not accelerating quickly, when recently and quite suddenly it began melting from below and speeding down a long linear, and purported here, a fault-bounded valley.

To the north, a recent earthquake along the Arctic Mid-Ocean Rift System released a 1,000-mile-long pulse of methane into the overlying ocean. Remote-sensing NASA satellites measured this gas release once it vertically escaped through the ocean into the atmosphere. This massive gas release is compelling evidence that known Deep Ocean hydrothermal vents along this segment of the rift have become active.

The following salient observations, many geological in nature, may help you put recently published and overly dramatic press reports of “shockingly rapid” glacial acceleration on the Svalbard Islands into a more naturally occurring context.

Increased Svalbard Glacial acceleration started suddenly in 2012, was limited to one continental glacier, occurred in only one portion of the Austfonna ice cap, was verified to NOT occur in the adjacent Vestfonna ice cap, and has not been documented elsewhere in the island chain (Figure 3).

These facts infer that the acceleration is not regional in nature as would be expected if related to regional atmospheric or ocean warming. Geological surface maps of the Svalbard islands show a highly faulted and folded terrain created by geological forces associated with the nearby world-class rift system.

These salient observations strongly suggest that the cause of Svalbard glacial acceleration is geological in nature, quite possibly caused by sub-glacial heat flow from a heretofore-unrecognized “convective system” that has lain dormant under the Austfonna ice cap until reactivated by recent fault and volcanic activity. This type of activity is known to exist across the entire region.

Figure 3


Clearly geologically induced heat flow is a tenable alternative explanation to recent glacial acceleration on the Svalbard Islands. Disappointingly, this possibility is never mentioned in worldwide press releases, but the much more speculative notion of man-made global warming is mentioned in nearly all media coverage.


Worldwide, overwhelming amounts of data and observations now virtually prove that powerful geological forces associated with active Deep Ocean and Continental Rift Systems have a strong effect on climate trends, including glacial ice melting. Still this notion is rarely considered, much less mentioned by the press, NASA, NOAA, environmental groups, or politicians.

Selectively withholding key geological data, observations, and relationships allows global warming advocates to spin a pseudo-scientific explanation for polar ice melting, to efficiently provoke people to incite impassioned responses, to garner headlines, and to sway national and worldwide environmental policies.

Conversely, rationally discussing the geological relationship between “Fire and Ice” in the context of the Plate Climatology Theory is far more thought provoking, avoids needless confrontation, and more importantly, increases the chances of discovering the truth about natural climate variations.