20th century global glacier mass change: an ensemble-based model reconstruction
Abstract. Negative glacier mass balances in most of Earth's glacierized regions contribute roughly one quarter to currently observed rates of sea-level rise, and have likely contributed an even larger fraction during the 20th century. The distant past and future of glaciers' mass balances, and hence their contribution to sea-level rise, can only be calculated using numerical models. Since independent of complexity, models always rely on some form of parameterizations and a choice of boundary
... oice of boundary conditions, a need for optimization arises. In this work, a model for computing monthly mass balances of glaciers on the global scale was forced with nine different data sets of near-surface air temperature and precipitation anomalies, as well as with their mean and median, leading to a total of eleven different forcing data sets. Five global parameters of the model's mass balance equations were varied systematically, within physically plausible ranges, for each forcing data set. We then identified optimal parameter combinations by cross-validating the model results against in-situ mass balance observations, using three criteria: model bias, temporal correlation, and the ratio between the observed and modeled temporal standard deviation of specific mass balances. The goal is to better constrain the glaciers' 20th century sea-level budget contribution and its uncertainty. We find that the disagreement between the different ensemble members is often larger than the uncertainties obtained via cross-validation, particularly in times and places where few or no validation data are available, such as the first half of the 20th century. We show that the reason for this is that the availability of mass balance observations often coincides with less uncertainty in the forcing data, such that the cross-validation procedure does not capture the true out-of-sample uncertainty of the glacier model. Therefore, ensemble spread is introduced as an additional estimate of reconstruction uncertainty, increasing the total uncertainty compared to the model uncertainty obtained in the cross validation. Our ensemble mean estimate indicates a sea-level contribution by global glaciers (excluding Antarctic periphery) for 1901–2018 of 76.2 ± 5.9 mm sea-level equivalent (SLE), or 0.65 ± 0.05 mm SLE yr−1.