Journal article

Anthropogenic warming forces extreme annual glacier mass loss

Lauren J Vargo, Brian M Anderson, Ruzica Dadic, Huw J Horgan, Andrew N Mackintosh, Andrew D King, Andrew M Lorrey



Glaciers are unique indicators of climate change. While recent global-scale glacier decline has been attributed to anthropogenic forcing, direct links between human-induced climate warming and extreme glacier mass-loss years have not been documented. Here we apply event attribution methods to document this at the regional scale, targeting the highest mass-loss years (2011 and 2018) across New Zealand’s Southern Alps. Glacier mass balance is simulated using temperature and precipitation from multiple climate model ensembles. We estimate extreme mass loss was at least six times (2011) and ten times (2018) (>90% confidence) more likely to occur with anthropogenic forcing than without. This incr..

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Awarded by NIWA

Awarded by Australian Research Council

Funding Acknowledgements

This work was supported by NIWA Strategic Science Internal Funding of the 'Climate Present and Past' project CAOA1901, a subcontract to Victoria University of Wellington from NIWA for 'Structure from Motion of Southern Alps glaciers' and a Victoria University of Wellington Doctoral Scholarship. A.D.K. received support from the Australian Research Council (DE180100638). We thank N. Cullen and P. Sirguey for sharing Brewster mass-balance data, and T. Kerr and H. Purdie for sharing Rolleston mass-balance data. We acknowledge the climate modelling groups that contributed model output to CMIP5 and the groups measuring glacier mass balance that makes up the data in Fig. 1. We thank R. Hock, S. Eaves and C. Lukens for their input, T. Chinn, A. Willsman and A. Woods for their work on the snowline survey.