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Recent Glacier Retreat Exceeds Internal Variability

Reichert, B. K., Bengtsson, L. and Oerlemans, J. (2002) Recent Glacier Retreat Exceeds Internal Variability. Journal of Climate, 15 (21). pp. 3069-3081. ISSN 0894-8755

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1175/1520-0442(2002)015<3069:RGREIV>2.0.CO;2


Glacier fluctuations exclusively due to internal variations in the climate system are simulated using downscaled integrations of the ECHAM4/OPYC coupled general circulation model (GCM). A process-based modeling approach using a mass balance model of intermediate complexity and a dynamic ice flow model considering simple shearing flow and sliding are applied. Multimillennia records of glacier length fluctuations for Nigardsbreen (Norway) and Rhonegletscher (Switzerland) are simulated using autoregressive processes determined by statistically downscaled GCM experiments. Return periods and probabilities of specific glacier length changes using GCM integrations excluding external forcings such as solar irradiation changes, volcanic, or anthropogenic effects are analyzed and compared to historical glacier length records. Preindustrial fluctuations of the glaciers as far as observed or reconstructed, including their advance during the “Little Ice Age,” can be explained by internal variability in the climate system as represented by a GCM. However, fluctuations comparable to the present-day glacier retreat exceed any variation simulated by the GCM control experiments and must be caused by external forcing, with anthropogenic forcing being a likely candidate.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Science > School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences > Department of Meteorology
ID Code:31657

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