Nav: Home

Melting small glaciers could add 10 inches to sea levels

May 22, 2019

A new review of glacier research data paints a picture of a future planet with a lot less ice and a lot more water. Glaciers worldwide are projected to lose anywhere from 18% to 36% of their mass by 2100, resulting in almost 10 inches of sea level rise.

The review is the most comprehensive global comparison of glacier simulations ever compiled.

"The clear message is that there's mass loss--substantial mass loss--all over the world," said lead author Regine Hock, from the University Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute.

The anticipated loss of ice varies by region, but the pattern is evident.

"We have more than 200 computer simulations, and they all say the same thing. Even though there are some differences, that's really consistent," Hock said.

This is the only comprehensive and systematic endeavor to date to compare global-scale glacier models and their projections. The paper is part of GlacierMIP, an international project to compare glacier research to understand glacier changes and their contributions to global sea level rise.

Hock's study compared 214 glacier simulations from six research groups around the world and "all of them paint the same picture," Hock said.

These groups tied their own studies to over 25 climate models using a range of climate scenarios. These scenarios are based on several different trajectories for greenhouse gas concentrations and atmospheric conditions adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, called the representative concentration pathways, referred to by scientists as RCP. Currently, the planet is moving toward the higher estimates of greenhouse gas concentrations.

Hock and former Geophysical Institute postdoctoral researcher Andrew Bliss, along with other authors, examined the data and results from these studies to work toward a coordinated method for understanding ice loss.

They examined the mass changes for over 200,000 glaciers worldwide, totaling an area equal to the size of Texas. The study does not include the vast ice sheets in Greenland or Antarctica, whose behavior is different from mountain and land-based glaciers and which require unique modeling methods.

The results indicate that the smaller glaciers could play a much larger role in sea level rise than researchers had previously thought. Most research has focused on ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, due to their size and prominence, but the effect of smaller glaciers is significant.

"We confirm that they are really substantial contributors to sea level rise," Hock said.

For example, Alaska's 25,000 glaciers will lose between 30% and 50% of their mass by the end of this century. Once they do, Alaska will be the largest global regional sea level contributor in Northern Hemisphere, apart from Greenland.

"Globally, there's almost 10 inches of sea level rise by 2100 only from the smaller glaciers, whereas everybody thinks it's only Antarctica and Greenland," Hock said. "But these relatively small glaciers in the world have an enormous impact."

The paper was published in the Journal of Glaciology.
-end-


University of Alaska Fairbanks

Related Climate Change Articles:

Fairy-wrens change breeding habits to cope with climate change
Warmer temperatures linked to climate change are having a big impact on the breeding habits of one of Australia's most recognisable bird species, according to researchers at The Australian National University (ANU).
Believing in climate change doesn't mean you are preparing for climate change, study finds
Notre Dame researchers found that although coastal homeowners may perceive a worsening of climate change-related hazards, these attitudes are largely unrelated to a homeowner's expectations of actual home damage.
Older forests resist change -- climate change, that is
Older forests in eastern North America are less vulnerable to climate change than younger forests, particularly for carbon storage, timber production, and biodiversity, new research finds.
Could climate change cause infertility?
A number of plant and animal species could find it increasingly difficult to reproduce if climate change worsens and global temperatures become more extreme -- a stark warning highlighted by new scientific research.
Predicting climate change
Thomas Crowther, ETH Zurich identifies long-disappeared forests available for restoration across the world.
More Climate Change News and Climate Change Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...