The number of glaciers on Earth could decrease by 80 per cent by the year 2100, a concering new model has predicted.
Climate scientists at Carnegie Mellon University in the US have projected the ice loss the planet could face in different emissions scenarios.
Their findings suggest that even if we are able to limit the increase in average global temperature to 2.7°F (1.5°C), nearly half of the planet’s total glacier mass.
This loss could negatively impact local hydrological cycles and result in an increase of glacier hazards like avalanches and floods.
Climate scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have projected the ice loss the planet could face in different emissions scenarios. Pictured: Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina
Glacial loss could negatively impact local hydrological cycles and result in an increase of glacier hazards like avalanches and floods. Pictured: An Arctic glacier in Canada
Major glaciers will DISAPPEAR by 2050 due to global warming
Some of the world’s most famous glaciers will disappear by 2050 due to global warming, whatever the temperature rise scenario, according to a UNESCO report.
This includes the Dolomites in Italy, the Yosemite and Yellowstone parks in the United States and Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.
UNESCO monitors some 18,600 glaciers across 50 of its World Heritage sites and said that a third of those are set to disappear by 2050.
While the rest can be saved by keeping global temperature rise below 1.5°C (2.7°F) relative to pre-industrial levels, in a business-as-usual emissions scenario, about 50 per cent of these World Heritage glaciers could almost entirely disappear by 2100.
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Many studies have shown that glaciers around the world are melting rapidly as a result of global warming.
In November 2022, scientists described the Thwaites Glacier in Antarctica as ‘holding on by its fingernails’, after discovering that it has retreated twice as fast as previously thought over the past 200 years.
This could lead to global sea levels rising by 10 feet (3 m) alone, but other researchers have predicted the increase that would be generated by other large ice masses.
For example, Antarctica’s Pine Island Ice shelf could cause a rise of 1.6 feet (0.5 m), while the East Antarctica ice sheet may contribute a whopping 16 feet (4.9 m) by 2500.
Sea level rises threaten cities like Shanghai and London, low-lying swathes of Florida and Bangladesh, and even entire nations such as the Maldives.
In the UK, for instance, a rise of 6.7ft (2 metres) or more may cause areas such as Hull, Peterborough, Portsmouth and parts of east London and the Thames Estuary at risk of becoming submerged.
Rising sea levels have also been linked to devastating coastal erosion, storm surges and wind-driven wave impacts.
As well as playing a part in these environmental disasters, the loss of glaciers will also negatively impact tourism and cultural values in their regions.
For the new study, published today in Science, the Pennsylvania-based team made predictions as to how many of Earth’s 215,000 mountain glaciers will be lost if global temperatures were to continue to rise.
Two thirds of Earth’s glaciers make up 41 percent of its total glacier mass, as the majority of them are relatively small – less than one kilometre square. According to the study, these would all be lost were we continue investment into fossil fuels as we do currently. Pictured: Global glacier change in the 21st century
They took into account large amounts of data tailored to different types of glaciers, including tidewater and debris-covered glaciers.
Tidewater glaciers have a boundary in contact with the ocean, which exacerbates melting, while debris can have a positive or negative effect on glacial melt depending on its thickness.
While these minute differences were not found to have an effect on global glacier projections, they did play a large role on the mass loss of individual glaciers.
Two thirds of Earth’s glaciers make up 41 percent of its total glacier mass, as the majority of them are relatively small – less than one kilometre square.
According to the study, these would all be lost were we continue investment into fossil fuels as we do currently.
‘[E]very increase in temperature has significant consequences with respect to glacier contribution to sea level rise, the loss of glaciers around the world, and changes to hydrology, ecology, and natural hazards,’ the authors said.
For the new study, published today in Scinece, the Pennsylvania-based team made predictions as to how many glaciers will be lost if global temperatures are to continue to rise. Pictured: The Kangiata Nunata Sermia glacier undergoing submarine melting in southwest Greenland
As glaciers take a long time to respond to changes in the climate, cutting back emissions will not suddenly stop all melting. Pictured: Outlets of SE Devon Ice Cap on Devon Island, Canada
However, as glaciers take a long time to respond to changes in the climate, cutting back emissions will not suddenly stop all glacial melting.
Dr David Rounce, who led the study, says that even if we ditch fossil fuels completely today it will still take up to 100 years to be reflected in glacier melt rates.
If we are able to limit the global temperature increase to 2.7°F (1.5°C), as was set out in the Paris Agreement in 2015, we would still lose 26 per cent of global glacier mass.
Central Europe, Western Canada and the US are home to smaller glaciers, which are at risk of disappearing completely if the world heats up by 5.4°F (3°C).
Dr Rounce hopes his work will inform world leaders and policymakers to work towards a lower target and save the glaciers.
The authors say: ‘While issuing a stark warning about the consequences of insufficient action, achieve this framing with an important message: Although it is too late to avoid losing many glaciers, any effort to limit global mean temperature rise will have a direct effect on reducing how many glaciers will be lost.’
Dr Rounce hopes his work will inform world leaders and policymakers to work towards a lower target and save the glaciers. Pictured: Lake Palcacocha, Peru
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Melting Greenland ice sheet could cause sea levels to rise by 0.5 INCHES by the end of the century
Melting of the Northeast Greenland Ice Sheet could cause sea levels to rise by half an inch by the end of the century, a new study has warned.
This is equivalent to the contribution made by the entire Greenland Ice Sheet over the last 50 years, meaning the rate of ice loss has been significantly underestimated.
Researchers from Denmark and the US used satellite data and numerical models to examine ice loss from the sheet since 2012.
They found it could contribute up to six times more to global sea level rise by 2100 than climate models currently project.
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