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Melting small glaciers could add 10 inches to sea levels by 2100

Melting small glaciers could add 10 inches to sea levels by 2100. A new study from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute shows that melting small-scale glaciers could lose 18-36% of their mass by 2100, which would add a whopping 10 inches to global sea levels.

This study, part of GlacierMIP, is the only systematic and comprehensive comparison of global-scale glaciers and their projection. It’s published in Journal of Glaciology.

“The clear message is that there’s mass loss — substantial mass loss — all over the world,” said lead author Regine Hock, from the Geophysical Institute. “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’s team looked at 214 glacier simulations from six separate international research groups. Each group linked their findings to 25 climate models, each using several climate scenarios based on different trajectories for greenhouse gas concentrations and atmospheric conditions adopted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Each one “[painted] the same picture,” Hock said.

The team looked at mass changes for over 200,000 glaciers worldwide and found that smaller glaciers could play a larger role in sea level rise than previously predicted. For example, by the end of this century, Alaska’s 25,000 glaciers will lose between 30% and 50% of their mass.

This will make Alaska the largest global regional sea level contributor in the Northern Hemisphere, besides Greenland.

“We confirm that they are really substantial contributors to sea level rise,” Hock said. “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. But these relatively small glaciers in the world have an enormous impact.”

By Olivia Harvey, Staff Writer

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Image Credit: Regina Hock

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