Reconstruction and Projection of Global Glacier Change from 1850 to 2300

2013 - 2016
Ben Marzeion (PI)
Georg Kaser
Alexander H. Jarosch
Marlis Hofer
Lindsey Nicholson
Kristin Richter
David Parkes

Glaciers form prominent features of the alpine landscape. They allow people to directly perceive slow changes of the climate system, that otherwise would be overwhelmed in human perception by short-term noise, i.e., weather and natural climate variability. Because of these properties, shrinking glaciers around the world have become poster children of anthropogenic climate change.

But impacts of glacier change – whether growing or shrinking – go far beyond this sentimental aspect: By changing the seasonality of runoff, glaciers are important regulators of water availability in many regions of the world. Retreating (as well as advancing) glaciers also lead to increased geohazards, e.g. from destabilized slopes and lakes dammed behind unstable, ice-cored moraines. Finally, even though the ice mass stored in glaciers seems negligible compared to the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Shields, glaciers have contributed significantly to sea level rise in the past, and probably have been the biggest single source of observed sea level rise since 1900. Improving the knowledge how glaciers have been and will be changing when subjected to climate change, both natural and anthropogenic, is therefore a pressing task. But very few studies have tended to projections of future change of the world’s glaciers, and to our knowledge, no global study has been performed using a model that was validated independently against observed glacier changes of the 20th century.

The overarching goal of the project is to deepen the understanding of mountain glaciers' responses to climate change on global, regional, and potentially local scale. In order to achieve this goal, within the framework of the project we will develop a model system able to estimate an individual glacier's response to climate variability and change, and able to be applied to each of the world's glaciers in the past and future based on the available data. The model system will be applied for each of the world’s glaciers from the years 1850 to 2000 in hindcast mode to (i) provide a basis for validation, and (ii) to obtain detailed understanding of the past behavior of glaciers. Finally, we will employ the model system for future climate projections for the years 2000 to 2300 in order to obtain detailed understanding on how the glaciers will respond to future climate change.

The analysis of these reconstructions and projections will allow for detailed new insights into glacier-climate interactions, better constrained projections of future sea level rise, and better knowledge about the future behavior of systems depending on or being influenced by glaciers, such as hydrology and water resources management, renewable energy from hydro power, geomorphology, and alpine ecology.

Funding Agency: 
Austrian Science Fund (FWF)
Funding Amount: 
€344 000

Related Publications

Marzeion, B.; Hock, R.; Anderson, B.; Bliss, A.; Champollion, N.; Fujita, K.; Huss, M.; Immerzeel, W.W.; Kraaijenbrink, P.; Malles, J.‐H.; Maussion, F.; Radic, V.; Rounce, D.R.; Sakai, A.; Shannon, S.; Wal, R.; Zekollari, H. , 2020 , Partitioning the Uncertainty of Ensemble Projections of Global Glacier Mass Change , Earth's Future , 8 , DOI: 10.1029/2019EF001470
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Maussion, F.; Butenko, A.; Champollion, N.; Dusch, M.; Eis, J.; Fourteau, K.; Gregor, P.; Jarosch, A.H.; Landmann, J.; Oesterle, F.; Recinos, B.; Rothenpieler, T.; Vlug, A.; Wild, C.T.; Marzeion, B. , 2019 , The Open Global Glacier Model (OGGM) v1.1 , Geosci. Model Dev. , 12 , 909 - 931 , DOI: 10.5194/gmd-12-909-2019
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Riva, R.E.M.; Frederikse, T.; King, M.A.; Marzeion, B.; van den Broeke, M.R. , 2017 , Brief communication: The global signature of post-1900 land ice wastage on vertical land motion , The Cryosphere , 11 , 1327–1332 , DOI: 10.5194/tc-11-1327-2017
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Frederikse, T.; Riva, R.; Kleinherenbrink, M.; Wada, Y.; van den Broeke, M.; Marzeion, B. , 2016 , Closing the sea level budget on a regional scale: trends and variability on the Northwestern European continental shelf , Geophysical Research Letters , DOI: 10.1002/2016GL070750
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Melini, D.; Gegout, P.; King, M.; Marzeion, B.; Spada, G. , 2015 , On the rebound: Modeling Earth’s ever-changing shape , EOS , 96 , DOI: 10.1029/2015EO033387
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Richter, K.; Marzeion, B. , 2014 , Earliest local emergence of forced dynamic and steric sea-level trends in climate models , Environmental Research Letters , 9 , 114009 , DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/11/114009
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Marzeion, B.; Cogley, J.G.; Richter, K.; Parkes, D. , 2014 , Attribution of global glacier mass loss to anthropogenic and natural causes , Science , 345 , 919-921 , DOI: 10.1126/science.1254702
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Marzeion, B.; Levermann, A. , 2014 , Loss of cultural world heritage and currently inhabited places to sea-level rise , Environmental Research Letters , 9 , 034001 , DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/3/034001
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Marzeion, B.; Jarosch, A.H.; Gregory, J.M. , 2014 , Feedbacks and mechanisms affecting the global sensitivity of glaciers to climate change , The Cryosphere , 8 , 59–71 , DOI: 10.5194/tc-8-59-2014
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Levermann, A.; Clark, P.U.; Marzeion, B.; Milne, G.A.; Pollard, D.; Radic, V.; Robinson, A. , 2013 , The multimillennial sea-level commitment of global warming , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 110 , 13745 - 13750 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1219414110
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Gregory, J.M.; White, N.J.; Church, J.A.; Bierkens, M.F.P.; Box, J.E.; van den Broeke, M.R.; Cogley, J.G.; Fettweis, X.; Hanna, E.; Huybrechts, P.; Konikow, L.F.; Leclercq, P.W.; Marzeion, B.; Oerlemans, J.; Tamisiea, M.E.; Wada, Y.; Wake, L.M.; van de Wal, R.S.W. , 2013 , Twentieth-century global-mean sea-level rise: is the whole greater than the sum of the parts? , J. Climate , 26 , 4476-4499 , DOI: 10.1175/JCLI-D-12-00319.1
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Church, J.A.; Monselesan, D.; Gregory, J.M.; Marzeion, B. , 2013 , Evaluating the ability of process based models to project sea-level change , Environ. Res. Lett. , 8 , 014051 , DOI: 10.1088/1748-9326/8/1/014051
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Marzeion, B.; Hofer, M.; Jarosch, A.H.; Kaser, G.; Mölg, T. , 2012 , A minimal model for reconstructing interannual mass balance variability of glaciers in the European Alps , The Cryosphere , 6 , 71 - 84 , DOI: 10.5194/tc-6-71-2012
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Marzeion, B.; Jarosch, A.H.; Hofer, M. , 2012 , Past and future sea-level change from the surface mass balance of glaciers , The Cryosphere , 6 , 1295 - 1322 , DOI: 10.5194/tc-6-1295-2012
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Kaser, G.; Großhauser, M.; Marzeion, B. , 2010 , Contribution potential of glaciers to water availability in different climate regimes , Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences , 107 , 20223 - 20227 , DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1008162107
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