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

    Its important that people study melting glaciers because, according to a new study, Earth's glaciers are melting much faster than scientists thought. Without the study of glaciers, we wouldn't have known that until they were gone. 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.

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

    I think its important that we study melting glaciers because we need to see and track them to make sure if they are melting to fast.For Example we need to study if the sea level is rising keep people safe.Also glaciers melting can cause floods a storms which is not good for people safety.In conclusion we need to study them more peoples safety.

  • CaylieB-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:39 p.m.

    It is important that we study melting glaciers because they could cause serious flooding to coastal regions. Based on the article, "Rising seas threaten coastal cities around the world and put more people at risk of flooding during storms." When glaciers melt, they make the sea level rise. As the sea level rises, coastal regions can become easily flooded when a storm hits, or they could be put completely underwater. This could kill millions of people. It is necessary to study melting glaciers to prevent coastal areas from being flooded.

  • ReginaldC-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:39 p.m.

    I think it is important that we study melting glaciers because people live on coastal cities and when glaciers melt the sea rises which put these people in danger. The article states,"Rising seas threaten coastal cities around the world and put more people at risk of flooding during storms." This is important because it shows why people need to be study this.

  • GuadalupeA-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:39 p.m.

    It is important that we study glaciers because the more we know about them the more information we could get from them, and understand all these sudden changes in land forms are occurring. In the article it states that in the last few years the oceans have been rising faster than had expected, but the main cause for that would the melting glaciers that are caused by global warming (responsible for about 25% to 30%. By studying the melting glaciers we were able to obtain this information and it could help us in the future.

  • AliviaF-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:39 p.m.

    It's important that we study melting glaciers because the studies show us what is causing the melting and what we can do about it. The global warming we are facing is caused by human activities like burning coal, gasoline and diesel for electricity and transportation is making Earth lose its ice. When we study the glaciers we find out where are most of the glaciers sinking at. We need to research because other wise the earth is in danger.

  • DomaniW-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:39 p.m.

    It is important to study melting glaciers because during storms, there would be flood warnings and rising seas. Rising seas threaten coastal cities. Rising seas lead to flooding. This could happen because of global warming. Global warming is caused by humans. Global warming causes glaciers to melt and cause rising seas and floods.

  • AveryB-aer1
    8/09/2019 - 01:39 p.m.

    The importance of studying melting glaciers is that it will help us find a solution to this problem. based on the article,"They determined that southwestern Asia is the only region of 19 where glaciers are not shrinking" this shows this problem is so severe that very few places are not experiencing climate change.

  • KiraS-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:39 p.m.

    I thinks it is important that we should study melting glaciers because like it says in the passage, "shrinking mountain glaciers closer to the equator can cause serious problems for people who depend on them." So that can cause problems for those people that depend on the glaciers. But if we studied glaciers and knew what was going to happen then we could prevent it or at least give those people a heads up than maybe it would be better. This is why i think we should study melting glaciers.

  • YoselinG-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:39 p.m.

    It's important that we study about melting glaciers. That is because there would be a lot of water and even though we need water we don't want it to over populate. Also, the climate has to do a lot with the melting of glaciers because in the summer they melt and they form in the winter.

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