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.
The European mountain cryosphere: a review of its current state, trends, and future challenges
Liss M. Andreassen,
Juan I. López‐Moreno,
The Cryosphere, Volume 12, Issue 2
Abstract. The mountain cryosphere of mainland Europe is recognized to have important impacts on a range of environmental processes. In this paper, we provide an overview on the current knowledge on snow, glacier, and permafrost processes, as well as their past, current, and future evolution. We additionally provide an assessment of current cryosphere research in Europe and point to the different domains requiring further research. Emphasis is given to our understanding of climate–cryosphere interactions, cryosphere controls on physical and biological mountain systems, and related impacts. By the end of the century, Europe's mountain cryosphere will have changed to an extent that will impact the landscape, the hydrological regimes, the water resources, and the infrastructure. The impacts will not remain confined to the mountain area but also affect the downstream lowlands, entailing a wide range of socioeconomical consequences. European mountains will have a completely different visual appearance, in which low- and mid-range-altitude glaciers will have disappeared and even large valley glaciers will have experienced significant retreat and mass loss. Due to increased air temperatures and related shifts from solid to liquid precipitation, seasonal snow lines will be found at much higher altitudes, and the snow season will be much shorter than today. These changes in snow and ice melt will cause a shift in the timing of discharge maxima, as well as a transition of runoff regimes from glacial to nival and from nival to pluvial. This will entail significant impacts on the seasonality of high-altitude water availability, with consequences for water storage and management in reservoirs for drinking water, irrigation, and hydropower production. Whereas an upward shift of the tree line and expansion of vegetation can be expected into current periglacial areas, the disappearance of permafrost at lower altitudes and its warming at higher elevations will likely result in mass movements and process chains beyond historical experience. Future cryospheric research has the responsibility not only to foster awareness of these expected changes and to develop targeted strategies to precisely quantify their magnitude and rate of occurrence but also to help in the development of approaches to adapt to these changes and to mitigate their consequences. Major joint efforts are required in the domain of cryospheric monitoring, which will require coordination in terms of data availability and quality. In particular, we recognize the quantification of high-altitude precipitation as a key source of uncertainty in projections of future changes. Improvements in numerical modeling and a better understanding of process chains affecting high-altitude mass movements are the two further fields that – in our view – future cryospheric research should focus on.