Unprecedented glacial melt to continue even in "stable" climate

We've never had glacier retreat happening at as fast a rate as we're having this moment in history. According to data compiled by the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) and organized into a dataset by a number of scientists including Michael Zemp and Holder Frey, glaciers are melting away faster than at any point since humans have been monitoring glacier activity – that goes back to the year 1600. This happening is classified by these scientists as a true global phenomenon – and it's not going to stop any time soon.

"Centennial glacier retreat is a global phenomenon" says the outline of this scientific study, titled "Historically unprecedented global glacier decline in the early 21st century." It's suggested by these scientists that not only is this loss unprecedented for the time they've observed, but it's probably without precedent in all of recorded history, "as indicated also in reconstructions from written and illustrated documents."

Above: The temporal coverage of available front variation records from observations (above) and reconstructions (below). The latest increase in data availability is indicated in pale blue and corresponds to the additional data coverage at the time of publication of WGMS (2012) compared to WGMS (2008a,b, and earlier issues) in dark blue.

For those readers who might automatically assume that this report will be pushing a Global Warming agenda, think again.

Instead, this study says that "this strong imbalance implies that

glaciers in many regions will very likely suffer further ice loss, even if climate remains stable."

Some (questionably) good new is that while no common cause has been found for winter months of loss in glaciers, summer can be attributed to heat. Chipping and vaporizing of ice turns to water, and that water doesn't always turn back into ice.

At this time the authors of the study aren't offering any solutions, only calling for more studies to be done, and for record-keepers in all glacial environments to step up and add to the research so that we can (eventually) figure out what we're going to do.

What should you do? Probably watch the 1995 film Waterworld.

You can learn more about glacier retreat in the paper "Historically unprecedented global glacier decline in the early 21st century" by authors Zemp, Michael; Frey, Holger; Gärtner-Roer, Isabelle; Nussbaumer, Samuel; Hoelzle, Martin; Paul, Frank; Haeberli, Wilfried; Denzinger, Florian; Ahlstrøm, Andreas P.; Anderson, Brian; Bajracharya, Samjwal; Baroni, Carlo; Braun, Ludwig N.; Cáceres, Bolívar E.; Casassa, Gino; Cobos, Guillermo; Dávila, Luzmila R.; Delgado Granados, Hugo; Demuth, Michael N.; Espizua, Lydia; Fischer, Andrea; Fujita, Koji; Gadek, Bogdan; Ghazanfar, Ali; Hagen, Jon Ove; Holmlund, Per; Karimi, Neamat; Li, Zhongqin; Pelto, Mauri; Pitte, Pierre; Popovnin, Victor V.; Portocarrero, Cesar A.; Prinz, Rainer; Sangewar, Chandrashekhar V.; Severskiy, Igor; Sigurðsson, Oddur; Soruco, Alvaro; Usubaliev, Ryskul; Vincent, Christian in Ingenta Connect via code: doi: 10.3189/2015JoG15J017