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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According to a new study, Earth's glaciers are melting much faster than scientists thought. The study shows glaciers are losing 369 billion tons of snow and ice each year with 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. They made the calculation in 2013.

The world's glaciers are shrinking five times faster now than they were in the 1960s. Their melt is accelerating due to global warming, 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 Michael Zemp, lead author of the study. He is also 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 several places. These include central Europe, the Caucasus region, western Canada and the U.S. Lower 48 states. It also includes 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.

Since 1961, the world has lost 10.6 trillion tons of ice and snow (9.6 trillion metric tons), the study found. That's 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. He 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. 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. 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. She is 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. 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 (43)
  • OliviaV-dec
    5/24/2019 - 12:24 p.m.

    I think that it is important to study more about global warming. If all of the glaciers melt it will flood everything. Most people don't think to much about it.

  • MadisonT-dec
    5/24/2019 - 12:31 p.m.

    I think we should study melting glaciers so we know why they are melting. In my opinion glaciers are mealting because of global worming.

  • DannyR-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:36 p.m.

    Studying these glaciers should be a priority to scientist right now. If we dont find out information about the glaciers than we may see a lot more flooding around the world due to the water levels rising. This can also cause a lot of money being spent from damages to homeowners and insurance company's, and worst of all the hurricanes can become worse and be more powerful and damaging that any other hurricanes before it because the is more water and with more water there is more source for the hurricanes

  • DillanG-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:37 p.m.

    It is very important for us to study melting glaciers because of the change in weather. By studying these melting glaciers it can help us better understand why these glaciers are melting. It can also show how to stop a flood or another ice age. The glaciers are melting near the bottom 48 states of america which could cause them to flood. Studying these glaciers would help prevent this from happening in the US and anywhere else in the world. Some cities in the US are already below sea level witch would cause a huge problem to anyone living there because of the rising sea levels.

  • NoelleS-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:37 p.m.

    I think that it is important to study melting glaciers because if we don't more and more will melt and cause serious issues to the 48 states that could get covered with over 4 feet of ice. Its also important that er study the melting glaciers because sea levels are continuing to rise and could cause flooding and many more issues like damage. That's why it is important that study melting glaciers.

  • PeytonS-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:38 p.m.

    Its important to study melting glaciers because what if we didn't know how much water we need or have. Glaciers are melting because of global warming and we need to study these thing to save our lives. Glaciers are quickly melting and we study them we will know what to do. Our lives will be saved.

  • OsoseseO-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:38 p.m.

    Some reasons it is important to study melting glaciers is because of the cause that it will have on the world. As the glaciers are melting more rapidly certain parts of the will have an effect. For example, Antarctica and Greenland have started forming large ice sheets over the land, making it harder for life to stay there. Also, these melting glaciers are being caused by human actions and the Earth warming. This is why it is important that we learn about the study of melting glaciers.

  • CarterP-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:38 p.m.

    I believe that it is important that we study glaciers because this could help us prevent them from melting too much. Today glaciers are melting at an alarming rate. Scientists say that glaciers wont survive the century. If glaciers melt then the ocean level rises, and coastal cities are in a lot more danger. This is why it is important to study glaciers.

  • JosueM-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:38 p.m.

    I think that studying glaciers is really important there are many benefits from it. One reason it's beneficial is because then we are able to see if the melting speed decreases or increases. We are also able to see how much water falls into the ocean from melting glaciers which then helps us see if the ocean levels are rising and how fast. We need to study them and try to prevent them from melting as quickly so then the world isn't covered by the ocean like Atlantis.

  • VivianN-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:38 p.m.

    There are many reasons why studying glaciers is important. One reason is that its important is because according to the article they are actually melting faster than we thought. If we hadn't looked into this we would've never known. Another reason is that people rely on glaciers for drinking water as said by the article. If we didn't look into it we wouldn't know how to prevent melting therefore leading to many dying of dehydration. In conclusion we need to look in to the melting of glaciers for the planet and people.

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