Disappearing Glaciers

Earth is losing its ice: Glaciers around the world are rapidly disappearing, millions of people will be forced to leave their homes within a lifetime as sea levels rise, warns expert in article in the world-leading journal Science.

“The evidence is overwhelming: Earth is losing its ice.”

Glaciers all over the world are disappearing in what should be the subject of “international concern”, according to a new article in the leading journal Science.

Among a number of significant effects, millions of people will be forced to leave their homes by rising seas, crucial sources of water will run dry and wildlife will lose sources of nutrients and shelter, wrote Dr Twila Moon of University of Colorado, Boulder.

The US Geological Survey has reported that the Glacier National Park in Montana has lost more than 120 glaciers in the last century. And Dr Moon said this was a pattern repeated all over the world from the Antarctic Peninsular to Patagonia, Kilimanjaro, the Himalayas, Greenland and the Arctic.

“Unless substantial climate response action is taken and the trend of global temperature rise is reversed, we will continue to see Miami streets swallowed by the sea … And we can expect this pattern to continue for decades, centuries, and indeed, millennia.

“As scientists, we must make this reality clear and help to ensure that action is taken to minimise impacts globally.”

She said a “surge” in scientific research and increased amounts of data “point clearly to rapid and largely irreversible ice loss”.

Climate models have projected that 52 per cent of all the small glaciers in Switzerland will be gone in 25 years, while western Canada will lose about 70 per cent of its glacial ice by 2100.

“This loss of Earth’s land ice is of international concern. Rising seas, to which melting ice is a key contributor, are expected to displace millions of people within the lifetime of many of today’s children,” Dr Moon wrote.

“But the problems of glacier loss do not stop at sea level rise; glaciers are also crucial water sources, integral parts of Earth’s air and water circulation systems, nutrient and shelter suppliers for flora and fauna, and unique landscapes for contemplation or exploration.”

“Some of the most sobering observations … come from the Thwaites and Pine Island Glaciers region of West Antarctica,” said Dr Moon.

“Containing about five metres of potential sea level rise, the West Antarctic Ice Sheet is particularly vulnerable because it rests on bedrock well below sea level and is exposed to warm ocean waters at depth.

“This setting is the key ingredient for triggering an amplifying loop of ice loss called the marine ice sheet instability, in which retreat, thinning, and speed-up at the ice sheet edge produce runaway ice loss.

“Multiple studies indicate that this irreversible West Antarctic collapse is under way.”

Dr Moon said it was unclear how quickly the ice would melt, and stressed this should be investigated with a degree of urgency.

“The risks and impacts of a one or two-metre sea level rise differ substantially for coastal cities and island nations.

“But perhaps even more important for planning is whether that flooding occurs in 2050 or 2150.

Top 7 disappearing glaciers

Here for 10,000 years … gone in 10. Seven glaciers that are melting before our eyes.

1. The Matterhorn – Europe

Many often wonder why Europeans get so hot and bothered about climate change. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that they are in direct, daily contact with one very sobering reality — their ice is vanishing.

European glaciers have been some of the hardest hit by climate change. Since the first half of the 19th century, about two-thirds of the ice cover was lost in the Pyrenees with a marked acceleration after 1980 (Chueca et al. 2005 via: UNEP) and in the Alps, home to the world famous Matterhorn, nearly half the glaciers have disappeared since record keeping began.

Often called the “water tower” of Europe, the Alps contain 40 percent of Europe’s fresh water supply. The dramatic disappearance of ice on the Matterhorn last year has prompted the need for the border between Switzerland and Italy to be redrawn.

2. Himalayas

Home to the planet’s largest body of ice outside the polar caps, the Himalayas feed several of the world’s largest rivers, supporting close to a billion people. In the western region of Himachal Pradesh, new evidence tracks an annual ice loss of nearly 3 feet in thickness per year, doubling in the past decade from the decade prior.

Will the Himalayan glaciers disappear this century? Not likely, but Chinese government officials are growing concerned that retreating ice may spell the end of reliable water supplies for China.

3. Greenland

Satellite images of Greenland’s Helheim Glacier dating back to the 50s shows that this massive glacier has remained in tact for decades. But In 2000 it suddenly began disappearing. By 2005 the glacier had retreated a total of 4 1/2 miles — at an average rate of 110 feet per day. Ironically, retreating glaciers in Greenland have enabled dozens of new oil and gas exploration projects as vanishing ice makes room for heavy drilling equipment.

4. Mount Kilimanjaro

Last week a band of celebrities hiked up Mount Kilimanjaro to raise awareness for the African water crisis. The famous snow-cap formed 11,000 years ago but has diminished more than 85 percent since 1912, and nearby Mount Kenya has lost nearly ALL of its ice at an average of 1 meter per year, threatening water supplies for millions of people. Scientists now predict that the last great African glaciers could be gone within 20 years.

5. The Andes

The Chacaltaya glacier, once the highest ski resorts on earth, has completely vanished in the relative blink of an eye. A study on Bolivian glaciers in 1998 predicted the glacier’s disappearance by the year 2015, a claim that at the time was dismissed as overly dramatic. But early last year, it was officially announced that the glacier ”… no longer exists,” an event which threatens both water and power supplies in the Andean region.

Melting has tripled in the last decade, and it is expected that several adjoining clusters could have less than 30 years to survive.

6. Glacier National Monument

Based on the latest reports, Montana may have to think of a new name for its famous Glacier National Monument. Of the 38 square-mile area once covered by glaciers, less than 25 percent remains. Researchers believe that by the year 2030, the vast majority of ice in Glacier National Park will be gone unless current climate patterns are reversed.

7. Alaska

Home to some of the most dramatic examples of climate change. The astonishing recession of the massive Muir glacier is just one example among dozens (see graphs below), causing many scientists to warn of earthquakes triggered by tectonic plates with suddenly lightened loads.