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:

Mapping the path of climate change
Predicting a major transition, such as climate change, is extremely difficult, but the probabilistic framework developed by the authors is the first step in identifying the path between a shift in two environmental states.
Small change for climate change: Time to increase research funding to save the world
A new study shows that there is a huge disproportion in the level of funding for social science research into the greatest challenge in combating global warming -- how to get individuals and societies to overcome ingrained human habits to make the changes necessary to mitigate climate change.
Sub-national 'climate clubs' could offer key to combating climate change
'Climate clubs' offering membership for sub-national states, in addition to just countries, could speed up progress towards a globally harmonized climate change policy, which in turn offers a way to achieve stronger climate policies in all countries.
Review of Chinese atmospheric science research over the past 70 years: Climate and climate change
Over the past 70 years since the foundation of the People's Republic of China, Chinese scientists have made great contributions to various fields in the research of atmospheric sciences, which attracted worldwide attention.
A CERN for climate change
In a Perspective article appearing in this week's Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Tim Palmer (Oxford University), and Bjorn Stevens (Max Planck Society), critically reflect on the present state of Earth system modelling.
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

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Our Relationship With Water
We need water to live. But with rising seas and so many lacking clean water – water is in crisis and so are we. This hour, TED speakers explore ideas around restoring our relationship with water. Guests on the show include legal scholar Kelsey Leonard, artist LaToya Ruby Frazier, and community organizer Colette Pichon Battle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#569 Facing Fear
What do you fear? I mean really fear? Well, ok, maybe right now that's tough. We're living in a new age and definition of fear. But what do we do about it? Eva Holland has faced her fears, including trauma and phobia. She lived to tell the tale and write a book: "Nerve: Adventures in the Science of Fear".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Uncounted
First things first: our very own Latif Nasser has an exciting new show on Netflix. He talks to Jad about the hidden forces of the world that connect us all. Then, with an eye on the upcoming election, we take a look back: at two pieces from More Perfect Season 3 about Constitutional amendments that determine who gets to vote. Former Radiolab producer Julia Longoria takes us to Washington, D.C. The capital is at the heart of our democracy, but it's not a state, and it wasn't until the 23rd Amendment that its people got the right to vote for president. But that still left DC without full representation in Congress; D.C. sends a "non-voting delegate" to the House. Julia profiles that delegate, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, and her unique approach to fighting for power in a virtually powerless role. Second, Radiolab producer Sarah Qari looks at a current fight to lower the US voting age to 16 that harkens back to the fight for the 26th Amendment in the 1960s. Eighteen-year-olds at the time argued that if they were old enough to be drafted to fight in the War, they were old enough to have a voice in our democracy. But what about today, when even younger Americans are finding themselves at the center of national political debates? Does it mean we should lower the voting age even further? This episode was reported and produced by Julia Longoria and Sarah Qari. Check out Latif Nasser's new Netflix show Connected here. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.