A new study published in the most recent edition of the journal Nature Geoscience has shown that meltwater from small mountain glaciers and ice caps will contribute anywhere between seven and eighteen centimetres to world sea level rise by the year 2100.
The largest of these contributors will be the glaciers in Arctic Canada, Alaska, and landmass bound glaciers in the Antarctic.
Other glaciers in the European Alps, New Zealand, the Caucasus, Western Canada, and the Western United States will contribute smaller levels to the overall sea level rise, but themselves are projected to lose more than 50 percent of their current ice volume.
“There is a lot of focus on the large ice sheets but very few global scale studies quantifying how much melt to expect from these smaller glaciers that make up about 40 percent of the entire sea-level rise that we observe right now,” says Valentina Radic, a postdoctoral researcher with the Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences and lead author of the study.
The research looked at volume loss and melt off from 120,000 mountain glaciers and ice caps from the world over, and is one of the first studies to provide regional detailed projections. Increases in the sea level caused by melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, as well as the thermal expansion of water, were excluded from the study.
“While the overall sea level increase projections in our study are on par with IPCC studies, our results are more detailed and regionally resolved,” says Radic. “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.”