Glaciers and Climate Change

  • Regine Hock
Reference work entry
Part of the Handbook of Global Environmental Pollution book series (EGEP, volume 1)


Coincident with atmospheric warming, glaciers have retreated and thinned around the world. Enhanced glacier melt is the primary cause for the decline of the world’s mountain glaciers. However, rapid and large increases in ice discharge into the oceans, possibly driven by warmer ocean waters, have accelerated the net mass loss of the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica in recent years. Glacier wastage implies substantial economic, societal, and ecological impacts resulting from changes in global sea level, fresh water availability, and other environmental conditions. Glacier mass loss makes up approximately half of the observed sea-level rise during the past two decades with roughly equal shares from the Antarctic and Greenland ice sheets, and the remaining mountain glaciers and ice caps (the other half of sea-level rise is thought due to thermal expansion of seawater). Glacier wastage may also affect the magnitude, timing, and physical and biogeochemical properties of glacier-fed rivers, with potential impacts on global ocean circulation and near-shore marine ecosystems, freshwater resources, and viability of hydropower and irrigation operations.


Glacier mass balance Glacier retreat Glacier runoff Glacier fluctuations Accumulation Ablation Calving Sea level 


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Additional Recommended Reading

  1. Cogley JG, (2012) The future of the world’s glaciers. In: Henderson-Sellers A, McGuffie K (eds) The future of the world’s climate, 2nd edn. Elsevier Scientific, Amsterdam, pp 197–222Google Scholar
  2. Gardner A, Moholdt G, Cogley JG, Wouters B, Arendt A, Wahr J, Berthier E, Hock R, Pfeffer T, Kaser G, Ligtenberg S, Bolch T, Sharp M, Hagen JO, van den Broeke M, Paul F (2013) A reconciled estimate of glacier contributions to sea level rise: 2003 to 2009. Science 340:852–857. doi:10.1126/science.1234532CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Radic V, Hock R (2013) Glaciers in the Earth’s hydrological cycle: assessments of glacier mass and runoff changes on global and regional scales. Surv Geophys. doi:10.1007/s10712-013-9262-yGoogle Scholar
  4. Shepherd A, Ivins ER, Geruo A, Barletta VR, Bentley MJ, Bettadpur S, Briggs KH, Bromwich DH, Forsberg R, Galin N, Horwath M, Jacobs S, Joughin I, King MA, Lenaerts JT, Li J, Ligtenberg SR, Luckman A, Luthcke SB, McMillan M, Meister R, Milne G, Mouginot J, Muir A, Nicolas JP, Paden J, Payne AJ, Pritchard H, Rignot E, Rott H, Sørensen LS, Scambos TA, Scheuchl B, Schrama EJ, Smith B, Sundal AV, van Angelen JH, van de Berg WJ, van den Broeke MR, Vaughan DG, Velicogna I, Wahr J, Whitehouse PL, Wingham DJ, Yi D, Young D, Zwally HJ (2012) A reconciled estimate of ice-sheet mass balance. Science 338:1183–1189. doi:10.1126/science.1228102CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Geophysical InstituteUniversity of AlaskaFairbanksUSA

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