Nature, 19 January 2022
Svalbard contains more than one thousand glaciers located across a “climate gradient” – distinct geographical regions that experience different temperature and precipitation levels. While studies often attempt to predict the response of glaciers to future warming by examining glacier behavior patterns from a few glaciers over a long period of time, this study instead uses the large number of Svalbard glaciers to base its projections on shorter observations, but of many glaciers in different climate gradients. The resulting research projects that Svalbard glacier thinning rates for the rest of this century will more than double compared to those from 1936 to 2010. Under low and moderate emission scenarios, these glaciers could thin by around two-thirds of a meter each year; but with high emissions, the average loss of ice thickness would jump to nearly one meter annually. An accompanying commentary notes that although the Svalbard ice loss anticipated by this study is smaller than most previous projections, it represents an innovative new method for projecting future glacier loss. This could prove important in projecting loss of water resources and other ecosystems services of glaciers in a warming world.