January 12, 2017

Recent Climate Change Impacts on Mountain Glaciers – Volume

Posted by Mauri Pelto

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Landsat Image of glaciers examined in the Himalaya Range: Chapter 10 that straddles a portion of Sikkim, Nepal and Tibet, China. Notice the number that end in expanding proglacial lakes. 

This January a book I authored has been published by Wiley. The goal of this volume is to tell the story, glacier by glacier, of response to climate change from 1984-2015. Of the 165 glaciers examined in 10 different alpine regions, 162 have retreated significantly. It is evident that the changes are significant, not happening at a “glacial” pace, and are profoundly affecting alpine regions. There is a consistent result that reverberates from mountain range to mountain range, which emphasizes that although regional glacier and climate feedbacks differ, global changes are driving the response. This book considers ten different glaciated regions around the individual glaciers, and offers a different tune to the same chorus of glacier volume loss in the face of climate change. There are 107 side by side Landsat image comparisons illustrating glacier response.  Several examples are below: in each image red arrows indicate terminus positions from the 1985-1990 period and yellow arrows terminus positions for the 2013-2015 period, and purple arrows upglacier thinning.

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There are chapters on: Alaska, Patagonia, Svalbard, South Georgia, New Zealand, Alps, British Columbia, Washington, Himalaya, and Novaya Zemlya. If you are a frequent reader of this blog you will recognize many of the locations. This updates each glacier to the same time frame. The book features 100 side by side Landsat image pairs illustrated using the same methods to illustrate change of each glacier. The combined efforts of the USGS and NASA in obtaining and making available these images is critical to examining glacier response to climate change. The World Glacier Monitoring Service inventory of field observations of terminus and mass balance on alpine glaciers is the another vital resource.  The key indicators that glaciers have been and are being significantly impacted by climate change are the global mass balance losses for 35 consecutive years documented by the WGMS.  The unprecendented global retreat that is increasing even after significant retreat has occurred in the last few decades (Zemp et al, 2015).  Last, the decline in area covered by glaciers in every alpine region of the world that is documented by mapping inventories such as the Randolph Glacier inventory and GLIMS ( Kargel et al 2014)

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Landsat Image of glaciers examined in the Svalbard: Hornsund Fjord Region: Chapter 6.

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Landsat Image of glaciers examined in the South Georgia Island: Chapter 5.

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Landsat Image of Mount Baker glaciers examined in the North Cascades, Washington:  Chapter 8.

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Landsat Image of glaciers examined in the Southern Alps of New Zealand S: Chapter 11.