Global glacier change in the 21st century: Every increase in temperature matters
Science, Volume 379, Issue 6627
Glacier mass loss affects sea level rise, water resources, and natural hazards. We present global glacier projections, excluding the ice sheets, for shared socioeconomic pathways calibrated with data for each glacier. Glaciers are projected to lose 26 ± 6% (+1.5°C) to 41 ± 11% (+4°C) of their mass by 2100, relative to 2015, for global temperature change scenarios. This corresponds to 90 ± 26 to 154 ± 44 millimeters sea level equivalent and will cause 49 ± 9 to 83 ± 7% of glaciers to disappear. Mass loss is linearly related to temperature increase and thus reductions in temperature increase reduce mass loss. Based on climate pledges from the Conference of the Parties (COP26), global mean temperature is projected to increase by +2.7°C, which would lead to a sea level contribution of 115 ± 40 millimeters and cause widespread deglaciation in most mid-latitude regions by 2100.
Accelerated global glacier mass loss in the early twenty-first century
Nature, Volume 592, Issue 7856
Glaciers distinct from the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets are shrinking rapidly, altering regional hydrology1, raising global sea level2 and elevating natural hazards3. Yet, owing to the scarcity of constrained mass loss observations, glacier evolution during the satellite era is known only partially, as a geographic and temporal patchwork4,5. Here we reveal the accelerated, albeit contrasting, patterns of glacier mass loss during the early twenty-first century. Using largely untapped satellite archives, we chart surface elevation changes at a high spatiotemporal resolution over all of Earth's glaciers. We extensively validate our estimates against independent, high-precision measurements and present a globally complete and consistent estimate of glacier mass change. We show that during 2000-2019, glaciers lost a mass of 267 ± 16 gigatonnes per year, equivalent to 21 ± 3 per cent of the observed sea-level rise6. We identify a mass loss acceleration of 48 ± 16 gigatonnes per year per decade, explaining 6 to 19 per cent of the observed acceleration of sea-level rise. Particularly, thinning rates of glaciers outside ice sheet peripheries doubled over the past two decades. Glaciers currently lose more mass, and at similar or larger acceleration rates, than the Greenland or Antarctic ice sheets taken separately7-9. By uncovering the patterns of mass change in many regions, we find contrasting glacier fluctuations that agree with the decadal variability in precipitation and temperature. These include a North Atlantic anomaly of decelerated mass loss, a strongly accelerated loss from northwestern American glaciers, and the apparent end of the Karakoram anomaly of mass gain10. We anticipate our highly resolved estimates to advance the understanding of drivers that govern the distribution of glacier change, and to extend our capabilities of predicting these changes at all scales. Predictions robustly benchmarked against observations are critically needed to design adaptive policies for the local- and regional-scale management of water resources and cryospheric risks, as well as for the global-scale mitigation of sea-level rise.
Abstract. Accurate knowledge of snow depth distributions in mountain catchments is critical for applications in hydrology and ecology. Recently, a method was proposed to map snow depth at meter-scale resolution from very-high-resolution stereo satellite imagery (e.g., Pléiades) with an accuracy close to 0.5 m. However, the validation was limited to probe measurements and unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) photogrammetry, which sampled a limited fraction of the topographic and snow depth variability. We improve upon this evaluation using accurate maps of the snow depth derived from Airborne Snow Observatory laser-scanning measurements in the Tuolumne river basin, USA. We find a good agreement between both datasets over a snow-covered area of 138 km2 on a 3 m grid, with a positive bias for a Pléiades snow depth of 0.08 m, a root mean square error of 0.80 m and a normalized median absolute deviation (NMAD) of 0.69 m. Satellite data capture the relationship between snow depth and elevation at the catchment scale and also small-scale features like snow drifts and avalanche deposits at a typical scale of tens of meters. The random error at the pixel level is lower in snow-free areas than in snow-covered areas, but it is reduced by a factor of 2 (NMAD of approximately 0.40 m for snow depth) when averaged to a 36 m grid. We conclude that satellite photogrammetry stands out as a convenient method to estimate the spatial distribution of snow depth in high mountain catchments.
Heterogeneous Changes in Western North American Glaciers Linked to Decadal Variability in Zonal Wind Strength
I. M. Howat,
Ben M. Pelto,
J. M. Shea,
Geophysical Research Letters, Volume 46, Issue 1
Western North American (WNA) glaciers outside of Alaska cover 14,384 km2 of mountainous terrain. No comprehensive analysis of recent mass change exists for this region. We generated over 15,000 multisensor digital elevation models from spaceborne optical imagery to provide an assessment of mass change for WNA over the period 2000–2018. These glaciers lost 117 ± 42 gigatons (Gt) of mass, which accounts for up to 0.32 ± 0.11 mm of sea level rise over the full period of study. We observe a fourfold increase in mass loss rates between 2000–2009 [−2.9 ± 3.1 Gt yr−1] and 2009–2018 [−12.3 ± 4.6 Gt yr−1], and we attribute this change to a shift in regional meteorological conditions driven by the location and strength of upper level zonal wind. Our results document decadal‐scale climate variability over WNA that will likely modulate glacier mass change in the future.