In September 2019, Sweden got a new official highest point. Researchers at Stockholm University’s research station in Tarfala were able to establish that the south peak of Kebnekaise was lower than the north peak of the same mountain. The height was, at that point in time, 2,095.6 metres. That was 1.2 metres lower than the height of the north peak at 2,096.8. Researchers have predicted for a long time that the height of the south peak, consisting of snow-covered glacier, would eventually fall below that of the north peak, which is composed of solid rock making its height stable.

Also this year, the south peak is lower

This year’s measurements by the researchers at Tarfala research station show that the south peak continues to be lower than the north peak. On 7 August, the height of the south peak was measured at 2,096.5 metres, while on 17 September, its height was measured at 2,096 metres. The south peak is now 0.8 metres lower than the north peak. This means that there were 40 centimetres of snow left from the previous winter at the end of the melting season 2020.

“The melting of the glacier on the south peak and other glaciers follows the same pattern of strong melting. During the last 25 years, the south peak has lost one metre per year on average”, says Professor Gunhild Ninis Rosqvist, who is responsible for the measurements.

The fact that the glacier on the south peak did not melt more this year compared to last year is probably a result of the long winter with lots of snow, compared to the winter of 2019, according to Professor Rosqvist.

Measurements since 1902

The measurements of the south peak have been conducted annually since the 1940s, and the earliest is from 1902. The south peak varies approximately three metres between summer and winter. Usually, the peak is at its highest in May and lowest in September. In the long run, the north peak will become the highest point of Sweden all year around.

The precision of this year’s measurement, using GPS, is 3 centimetres.

Scientist holding a measure tool in a snowy mountain top
Measuring the height of the south peak of Kebnekaise on September 17. Photo: Patrik Mäler