Study co-authored by UNE researcher finds 80% of world's glaciers could disappear by 2100

Chunks of ice break off the Perito Moreno Glacier, in Lake Argentina, at Los Glaciares National Park, near El Calafate, in Argentina's Patagonia region, Thursday, March 10, 2016. The massive natural monument in the province of Santa Cruz periodically advances over the lake, and then breaks off. The glacier last ruptured in March 2012.
Francisco Munoz

The world could lose up to 80% of its glaciers this century. That's one finding of a recent paper co-authored by a University of New England researcher.

The paper published this week in the journal Science shows that the best-case scenario is that half of all glaciers, and a quarter of all glacier mass, will melt by 2100. That's assuming that mean global temperature is limited to 1.5 degrees Celsius of warming.

Co-author Will Kochtitzky, of the University of New England, says the research team compiled observations and ran models to understand how climate change might affect glaciers. At current temperature projections, the analysis shows that melting glaciers will likely add 4 inches of sea level rise by century's end. Kochtitzky says this will amplify tidal surges in Maine like those from the storm just before Christmas.

"We're really at the front lines of glacier melt and climate change, even though we are really far from any glaciers and we haven't had glaciers on our landscape for over 15,000 years," he says.

And Kochtitzky says the study excludes the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, which hold far more ice. He says the relationship between warming and glacier loss is linear, so reducing carbon emissions now will preserve more glaciers in the future.

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Murray Carpenter is Maine Public’s climate reporter, covering climate change and other environmental news.