Half of World's Small Glaciers Will Be Entirely Melted by 2100 - But There's Good News For The Himalayas

st mary's glacier colorado photo

photo: emerson12/Creative Commons

A new study in Nature Geoscience examining glaciers melting due to climate change forecasts tough times for the world's small glaciers, but offers a more hopeful outlook for Himalayan glaciers. The research, the most comprehensive of its kind carried out so far, shows that about half of glaciers under 5 square kilometers in area will disappear entirely by 2100, in the process contributing during that time period the same amount of water to global sea level rise as the melting of ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland, about 12 centimeters. Glaciers of this size comprise about 40% of the world's total glaciers.

Report co-author Valentina Radic, from the University of British Columbia, comments, "While the overall sea level increase projections in our study are on par with IPCC studies, our results are more detailed and regionally resolved. This allows us to get a better picture of projected regional ice volume change and potential impacts on local water supplies, and changes in glacier size distribution" (Science Codex).

As for regional impact of climate change on glaciers, the research projects by 2100 a decline of 50-90% for Europe's glaciers, 45-90% in the Caucasus Mountains, and 60-85% for New Zealand.

Though these are dramatic declines, in terms of sea level rise the effect of losing this glaciers is expected to be small. The greatest glacial contributor to sea level rise will come from melting in Arctic Canada, Alaska and landmass-bound glaciers in Antarctica.

himalayas photo

photo: Nagesh Kamath/Creative Commons
Himalayan Glaciers Only Lose Small Percentage of Area by 2100
In contradiction to dire projections in the last IPCC report for Himalayan glaciers--which were found to be inaccurately included approximately at this time last year--this research finds that the effects of climate change on Himalayan glaciers are likely to be less than initially suggested.

In fact, according to the multiple models used in this research, Himalayan glaciers show only a 10-15% decline by 2100, with some actually showing an overall increase in area--presumably due to different snowfall projections in each model.

Read more: Nature News and Nature Geoscience: Regionally differentiated contribution of mountain glaciers and ice caps to future sea level rise
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More on Global Climate Change:
USGS Confirms Himalayan Glaciers Are Melting & Climate Change is to Blame
90% of Himalayan Glacier Melting Caused by Aerosols & Black Carbon
Two Meter Sea Level Rise Now Inevitable - But How Fast Will It Happen?

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