Accelerating glacier volume loss on Juneau Icefield driven by hypsometry and melt-accelerating feedbacks

Bethan Davies*, Robert Mcnabb, Jacob Bendle, Jonathan Carrivick, Jeremy Ely, Tom Holt, Bradley Markle, Christopher Mcneil, Lindsey Nicholson, Mauri Pelto

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Globally, glaciers and icefields contribute significantly to sea level rise. Here we show that ice loss from Juneau Icefield, a plateau icefield in Alaska, accelerated after 2005 AD. Rates of area shrinkage were 5 times faster from 2015–2019 than from 1979–1990. Glacier volume loss remained fairly consistent (0.65–1.01 km3 a−1) from 1770–1979 AD, rising to 3.08–3.72 km3 a−1 from 1979–2010, and then doubling after 2010 AD, reaching 5.91 ± 0.80 km3 a−1 (2010–2020). Thinning has become pervasive across the icefield plateau since 2005, accompanied by glacier recession and fragmentation. Rising equilibrium line altitudes and increasing ablation across the plateau has driven a series of hypsometrically controlled melt-accelerating feedbacks and resulted in the observed acceleration in mass loss. As glacier thinning on the plateau continues, a mass balance-elevation feedback is likely to inhibit future glacier regrowth, potentially pushing glaciers beyond a dynamic tipping point.
Original languageEnglish
Article number5099
Number of pages19
JournalNature Communications
Issue number1
Early online date02 Jul 2024
Publication statusPublished - 02 Jul 2024


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