Global warming is shrinking glaciers faster than thought In this Feb. 7, 2016 file photo, tourists walk past waterfalls at the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand. (AP Photo/Nick Perry/AP Photo/Sam McNeil)
Global warming is shrinking glaciers faster than thought
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Earth's glaciers are melting much faster than scientists thought - a new study shows they are losing 369 billion tons of snow and ice each year, more than half of that in North America.

The most comprehensive measurement of glaciers worldwide found that thousands of inland masses of snow compressed into ice are shrinking 18 percent faster than an international panel of scientists calculated in 2013.

The world's glaciers are shrinking five times faster now than they were in the 1960s, with  their melt accelerating due to global warming, and adding more water to already rising seas, the study found.

"Over 30 years suddenly almost all regions started losing mass at the same time," said lead author Michael Zemp, director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich. "That's clearly climate change if you look at the global picture."

The glaciers shrinking fastest are in central Europe, the Caucasus region, western Canada, the U.S. Lower 48 states, New Zealand and near the tropics. Glaciers in these places on average are losing more than 1 percent of their mass each year, according to a study in the journal Nature.

"In these regions, at the current glacier loss rate, the glaciers will not survive the century," Zemp said.

Zemp's team used ground and satellite measurements to look at 19,000 glaciers, far more than previous studies. They determined that southwestern Asia is the only region of 19 where glaciers are not shrinking, which Zemp said is due to local climate conditions.

The study found that, since 1961, the world has lost 10.6 trillion tons of ice and snow (9.6 trillion metric tons), enough to cover the lower 48 U.S. states in about 4 feet of ice.

Scientists have known for a long time that global warming caused by human activities like burning coal, gasoline and diesel for electricity and transportation is making Earth lose its ice. They have been especially concerned with the large ice sheets covering Greenland and Antarctica.

This study, "is telling us there's much more to the story," said Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, who wasn't part of the study. "The influence of glaciers on sea level is bigger than we thought."

A number of factors are making sea levels rise, but the biggest cause is that oceans are getting warmer, which makes water expand. The new figures show glacier melt is a bigger contributor than thought, responsible for about 25% to 30% of the yearly rise in oceans, Zemp said.

Rising seas threaten coastal cities around the world and put more people at risk of flooding during storms.

Glaciers grow in winter and shrink in summer, but as the Earth has warmed, they are growing less and shrinking more, and Zemp said warmer summer temperatures are the main reason glaciers are shrinking faster.

While people think of glaciers as polar issues, shrinking mountain glaciers closer to the equator can cause serious problems for people who depend on them, said Twila Moon, a snow and ice data center scientist who also wasn't part of the study. She said people in the Andes, for example, rely on the glaciers for drinking and irrigation water each summer.

A separate study in Environmental Research Letters confirmed faster melting and other changes in the Arctic and it found that in winter, the Arctic is warming 2.8 times faster than the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. Overall, the region is getting more humid, cloudier and wetter.

"It's on steroids, it's hyperactive," said lead author Jason Box, a scientist for the Danish Meteorological Institute.

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CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why do you think it's important that we study melting glaciers?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (21)
  • Haydenl-aer
    8/09/2019 - 09:04 a.m.

    I believe that it's important to study melting glaciers to be able to better understand how we can prevent our own actions from causing their further destruction. The text states "The world's glaciers are shrinking five times faster now than they were in the 1960s, with their melt accelerating due to global warming...". With this in mind, we need to observe new solutions to old problems. For example, nuclear power and cleaning up coal emissions. This could help circumvent global warming and stop more damage being done to the glaciers. This of course would require studying them before they are too far gone, meaning that researching them now is critical, as researching them once they are gone is impossible. If we are to put work into projects related to the glaciers, we may be able to clean up our planet and at least partially disable global warming from taking effect on the remaining glaciers.

  • Jaydeng-aer
    8/09/2019 - 09:07 a.m.

    Why do I think it is important we study melting glaciers? I think it is important because we might figure out a way to stop it. As the passage states, "A new study shows they are losing 369 billion tons of snow and ice each year, more than half of that in North America." This explains how so much ice is melting. It is affecting animals like seals, polar bears, and penguins. It also affect people, as the passage explains, "Shrinking mountain glaciers closer to the equator can cause serious problems for people who depend on them." This shows how it even affects people. So i think we should study it so we can find a way to stop it and maybe even end global warming.

  • ChristianV-aer
    8/09/2019 - 09:09 a.m.

    Some people think glaciers are not useful,But many people depend on these glaciers and with global warming the glaciers are melting faster and breaks the cycle.The cycle of glaciers is in the summer they melt and in winter they grow back,But the problem is that the glaciers are melting to fast for them to grow back during winter and eventually there will be no glaciers left.We need to study these glaciers,there important to many people around the world,without them there will be amazing glaciers,But also less melt water.It is very important that we study these melting glaciers,we need to find a way to stop them from melting.

  • Bethanyk-aer
    8/09/2019 - 09:09 a.m.

    I think it's important we study melting glaciers because if we don't then we might lose the gases that allow sunlight to come through the atmosphere. Also, if we just let the glaciers melt away then our climate change and global warming will only get worse by the day.

  • Kennedyj-aer
    8/09/2019 - 09:09 a.m.

    There are many reasons why it's important that we study melting glaciers. The text states that, "The world's glaciers are shrinking five times faster now than they were in the 1960s..." This is because of global warming and temperatures have risen. As it became warmer, the glaciers didn't form as often and they were smaller. The text also states that, "They determined that southwestern Asia is the only region of 19 where glaciers are not shrinking..." The reason behind this is that the temperatures haven't risen in this location, therefore making them more common. In conclusion, this is important because we need to know what's going on and what's happening around us.

  • HunterC-aer
    8/09/2019 - 09:09 a.m.

    I think it's important that we study the melting glaciers because them melting constantly can cause major problems for us people. The more they melt the more unwanted water we will receive. Extra water is a problem because this can cause major flooding to happen way more often. In the article it says "adding more water to already rising seas". This being said, we are losing land to the rising seas. The higher the sea level the less land we have to work with. Another reason the ice and snow is important is because some people rely on this ice to melt for water then freeze back over. If the ice melts faster than it freezes then they are going to run out of water. I know this because in the article it says "people in the Andes, for example, rely on the glaciers for drinking and irrigation water each summer". This being said it is definitely important that we study the melting glaciers.

  • Parrish-aer1
    8/09/2019 - 09:09 a.m.

    The study of melting glaciers is very important considering that it is way more than just a block of ice. According to the 14th paragraph, it states "The Andes, for example, rely on the glaciers for drinking and irrigation water each summer". With the research being continued from many different scientist these glaciers are melting faster than ever,the study of melting glaciers can help these areas be aware of the climate change.The study of melting glaciers is not just like any other study in nature,this study has many lives depending on it.

  • Brooklynh-aer
    8/09/2019 - 09:11 a.m.

    I think that it is important that we study melting ice glaciers because they can tell us how the earth is changing and how quickly. One of the many reason global warming is taking place is because of humans and if they are able to predict how long we have until its to late then we need to be able to prepare.Once people know what to expect then we can change our ways based in the information given to us.

  • Nathanz-aer
    8/09/2019 - 09:12 a.m.

    Without the important study of melting glaciers, the world may be at great danger. The author of the passage states, "a new study shows they are losing 369 billion tons of snow and ice each year, more than half of that in North America." Studies like this may help more people notice the world that is going around them, and it can get more help or potentially set a organization to help solve the long problem.

  • Kalebb-aer
    8/09/2019 - 09:12 a.m.

    I personally believe it's important to study and observe the melting glaciers because the rate is changing. People can see the rates changing. Because we studied the glaciers, we can formulate statistics, like how it's increased by 18 percent since 2013. It's also important for the cities on the coastlines. The glacier's water is dropping into the ocean, and risings seas are flooding those cities. Fortunately, we studied the glaciers, so we could realize that quicker and find the cause of the flooding.

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