Glacier mass loss passes the point of no return, researchers report

March 20, 2018, University of Innsbruck
The photo shows a picture of the Hintereisferner and the Weisskugel in Tyrol, which was taken during a photo flight of the Institute for Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences of the University of Innsbruck at the end of August 2015. The two upper side glaciers (shown on the right) were still connected to the Hintereisferner just a few years ago. The snow deposits are no longer sufficient to keep the glacier in balance. Credit: Institute of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences, University of Innsbruck

Researchers from the Universities of Bremen and Innsbruck have shown in a recent study that the further melting of glaciers cannot be prevented in the current century—even if all emissions were curtailed. However, due to the slow reaction of glaciers to climate change, human activity will have a massive impact beyond the 21st century. In the long run, 500 meters by car with a mid-range vehicle will cost one kilogram of glacier ice. The study has now been published in Nature Climate Change.

In the Paris Agreement, 195 member states of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change agreed to limit the rise in to significantly below 2°C, if possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. This should significantly reduce the risks of . What would the success of this plan mean for the evolution of ? This is the conclusion of climate researchers Ben Marzeion and Nicolas Champollion from the Institute of Geography at the University of Bremen and Georg Kaser and Fabien Maussion from the Institute of Atmospheric and Cryospheric Sciences at the University of Innsbruck. They have investigated this question by calculating the effects of compliance with these climate goals on the progressive melting of glaciers. "Melting glaciers have a huge influence on the development of . In our calculations, we took into account all glaciers worldwide—without the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets and peripheral glaciers—and modeled them in various climate scenarios," explains Georg Kaser.

One kilogram of CO2 emitted costs 15 kilograms of . Whether the average temperature rises by 2 or only 1.5°C makes no significant difference for the development of glacier mass loss over the next 100 years. "Around 36 percent of the ice still stored in glaciers today would melt even without further emissions of greenhouse gases. That means more than a third of the glacier ice that still exists today in can no longer be saved, even with the most ambitious measures," says Ben Marzeion.

However, looking beyond the current century, it does make a difference whether the 2 or 1.5°C goal is achieved. "Glaciers react slowly to climatic changes. If, for example, we wanted to preserve the current volume of glacial ice, we would have to reach a temperature level from pre-industrial times, which is obviously not possible. In the past, have already triggered changes that can no longer be stopped. This also means that our current behaviour has an impact on the long-term evolution of the glaciers—we should be aware of this," adds glaciologist Kaser. In order to make these effects tangible, the scientists have calculated that every kilogram of CO2 that we emit today will cause 15 kilograms of glacier melt in the long term. Calculated on the basis of an average car newly registered in Germany in 2016, this means that one kilogram of glacier ice is lost every five hundred meters by car," says Ben Marzeion.

Explore further: Melting glaciers raise sea level

More information: Ben Marzeion, Georg Kaser, Fabien Maussion, Nicolas Champollion: Limited Influence of climate change mitigation on short-term glacier mass loss. Nature Climate Change (2018). DOI: 10.1038/s41558-018-0093-1

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etherair
3.4 / 5 (5) Mar 20, 2018
The exchange rate of 1 CO2 produced for 15 H2O melted is more than plausible. Only driving a half kilometer per kilogram of CO2 stresses my accepted perceptions. A lot.
That is a whole bunch of CO2, my assumptions have always been in the grams per mile range. I was wrong, really wrong, my guess was a full thousand times too small.
I am now guessing I am not alone in this misunderstanding of facts. Small wonder denial is strong.
Pooua
not rated yet Mar 20, 2018
I'm wondering where these researchers get their numbers? In particular, where do they get the ratio of CO2 or miles driven to kilograms of ice lost? I know this isn't a linear relationship, and several other variables are involved, so the statement is only an approximation. I agree that nothing can keep us within the target limit, but I've yet to see a calculation of CO2 emitted per micro-degree global warming.
SamB
2.1 / 5 (7) Mar 20, 2018
This is great news! Now they can stop this meaningless gibbering about 'tipping points', because it has come and gone.
Finally, some peace and quiet.
Turgent
1 / 5 (1) Mar 20, 2018
"One kilogram of CO2 emitted costs 15 kilograms of glacier ice."

To bad the paper isn't available to see how they teased this out i.e. what half-life of CO2, 7 or 30 years.
leetennant
5 / 5 (5) Mar 20, 2018
This is great news! Now they can stop this meaningless gibbering about 'tipping points', because it has come and gone.
Finally, some peace and quiet.


Welcome to Nihilism. I arrived late 2016. Let's just drink gin and watch the world burn.
Bogie99
1.8 / 5 (10) Mar 20, 2018
The climate has been steadily warming since before the invention of the automobile. Nice try. One day people will be laughing at this era of hysteria, complaining about warmth, as the climate snaps back to frigid temperatures and everybody's main concern is just staying alive to bury their dead in hopes of prevention of spreading disease.
SURFIN85
4.2 / 5 (5) Mar 21, 2018
Paid shill
PinkElephant
5 / 5 (1) Mar 21, 2018
The exchange rate of 1 CO2 produced for 15 H2O melted is more than plausible. Only driving a half kilometer per kilogram of CO2 stresses my accepted perceptions. A lot.
That is a whole bunch of CO2, my assumptions have always been in the grams per mile range. I was wrong, really wrong, my guess was a full thousand times too small.
I am now guessing I am not alone in this misunderstanding of facts. Small wonder denial is strong.


You are mistaken. It's a half kilometer per kilogram of *ice*, not of CO2 (whereas 1 kg of CO2 equates to 15 kg of glacier ice lost outside of Greenland and Antarctica in the long term - i.e. over many centuries until climatic equilibrium is regained - per the paper's alleged assertion.) In other words, under these claims/assumptions, 1 kg of CO2 emitted would correspond to an average of 0.5*15 = 7.5 km driven for an average German car (and conversely, 15 kg of long-term glacier ice loss for every 7.5 km driven, again on average.)
Zzzzzzzz
not rated yet Mar 25, 2018
The climate has been steadily warming since before the invention of the automobile. Nice try. One day people will be laughing at this era of hysteria, complaining about warmth, as the climate snaps back to frigid temperatures and everybody's main concern is just staying alive to bury their dead in hopes of prevention of spreading disease.

I guess an asylum was emptied out somewhere, and this former inmate hasn't been locked up for crime yet.

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