The total volume of the glaciers and small ice caps on earth is much smaller than the volume contained in the vast ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica. But small glaciers and ice caps react more rapidly to changes in climate and consequently a substantial part of the estimated sea level rise in the 21st century can be attributed to melting of glaciers. To assess this potential sea level rise, the response of glaciers and small ice caps to climate change needs to be understood.
In my PhD project I focussed on one ice cap in southern Norway where the availability of measurements of different kinds allowed for a detailed model study of the relation between climate and ice cap changes.
This approach could not be used in my postdoc project, covering all glaciers and small ice caps on earth. The number of individual glaciers is large (more than 150,000) and for the majority of these glaciers information on for instance topography and mass balance is scarce. We therefore had to revert to simplified models and statistical methods.
In the Sustainability project 'Water, Climate and Ecosystems' I will implement the glacier model developed for ice2sea in a hydrological model. This allows us to follow the melt water downstream of the glaciers and to determine the contribution of glacier water to the water supply over time.