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Estimating the contribution of Arctic glaciers to sea-level change in the next 100 years

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In this paper, we report on an approach to estimate the contribution of Arctic glaciers to sea-level change. In our calculation we assume that a static approach is feasible. We only calculate changes in the surface balance from modelled sensitivities. These sensitivities, summarized in the seasonal sensitivity characteristic, can be used to calculate the change in the surface mass budget for given anomalies of monthly temperature and precipitation. We have based our calculations on a subdivision of all Arctic ice into 13 regions: four sectors of the Greenland ice sheet; the Canadian Arctic >74° N; the Canadian Arctic <74° N; Alaska, USA; Iceland; Svalbard; Zemlya Frantsa Iosifa, Russia; Novaya Zemlya, Russia; Severnaya Zemlya, Russia; and Norway/Sweden >60° N. As forcing for the calculations, we have used the output from five climate models, for the period 2000–2100. These models were forced by the same greenhouse-gas scenario (IPCC-B2). The calculated contributions to sea-level rise in the year 2100 vary from almost zero to about 6 cm. The differences among the models stem first of all from differences in the precipitation. The largest contribution to sea-level change comes from the Greenland ice sheet. The glaciers in Alaska also make a large contribution, not because of the area they cover, but because they are more sensitive than other glaciers in the Arctic. The climate models do not agree on regional patterns. The runoff from Svalbard glaciers, for instance, increases for two models and decreases for the three other models. We conclude that the uncertainty due to a simple representation of the glaciological processes is probably smaller than the uncertainty induced by the differences in the climate-change scenarios produced by the models.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: August 1, 2005

More about this publication?
  • The Annals of Glaciology is a peer-reviewed, thematic journal published 2 to 4 times a year by the International Glaciological Society (IGS). Publication frequency is determined and volume/issue numbers assigned by the IGS Council on a year-to-year basis and with a lead time of 3 to 4 years. The Annals of Glaciology is included in the ISI Science Citation Index from volume 50, number 50 onwards.

    Themes can be on any aspect of the study of snow and ice. Individual members can make a suggestion for a theme for an Annals issue to the Secretary General, who will forward it to the IGS Publications Committee. The IGS Publication Committee will make a recommendation for an individual themed Annals issue, together with a potential Annals Chief Editor for that issue, to IGS Council. The IGS Council will make the decision whether to proceed, taking into account the spread of topics and the overall capacity for publication of pages in Annals.

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