Quantifying the range of future glacier mass change projections caused by differences among observed past-climate datasets

Megumi Watanabe, Aki Yanagawa, Satoshi Watanabe, Yukiko Hirabayashi, Shinjiro Kanae

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Observed past climate data used as input in glacier models are expected to differ among datasets, particularly those for precipitation at high elevations. Differences among observed past climate datasets have not yet been described as a cause of uncertainty in projections of future changes in glacier mass, although uncertainty caused by varying future climate projections among general circulation models (GCMs) has often been discussed. Differences among observed past climate datasets are expected to propagate as uncertainty in future changes in glacier mass due to bias correction of GCMs and calibration of glacier models. We project ensemble future changes in the mass of glaciers in Asia through the year 2100 using a glacier model. A set of 18 combinations of inputs, including two observed past air temperature datasets, three observed past precipitation datasets, and future air temperature and precipitation projections from three GCMs were used. The uncertainty in projected changes in glacier mass was partitioned into three distinct sources: GCM uncertainty, observed past air temperature uncertainty, and observed past-precipitation uncertainty. Our findings indicate that, in addition to the differences in climate projections among GCMs, differences among observed past climate datasets propagate fractional uncertainties of about 15% into projected changes in glacier mass. The fractional uncertainty associated with observed past precipitation was 33–50% that of the observed air temperature. Differences in observed past air temperatures and precipitation did not propagate equally into the ultimate uncertainty of glacier mass projection when ablation was dominant.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2425-2435
Number of pages11
JournalClimate Dynamics
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Aug 15


  • Air temperature
  • Bias correction
  • Calibration
  • Glacier model
  • Precipitation
  • Propagation of uncertainty

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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