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

    The melting of glaciers should be an important subject for scientists. Without any scientists constantly looking and trying to find a positive solution for these glaciers and global warming in general, people that depend and live near glaciers will be affected in a horrible way. This shows how important this topic is because many people like some in the Andes will be affected because they use glaciers as a water source.

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

    It is imperative that we study melting glaciers because it is causing dangerous harm to the whole earth. For example, coastal cities may be in trouble. Given the fact that the seas are rising, the addition of melting glaciers makes them rise even faster. Also, the article states" The melted glaciers can cover about 48 states in 4 feet of ice."

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

    We should study more about glaciers because the day they melt it will get flooded. What will everyone do when it's that day. So studying the glaciers will help people in advance to know what to do to get ready. Stated in the text it explain that scientist's research shows that glaciers are melting faster then they calculated. So its the reason why we should study glaciers.

  • AfiaA-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:40 p.m.

    It is important that we study melting glaciers so that we know what causes it to melt and how we can stop glaciers from shrinking. According to the text, "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". So if we know what causes it, we can learn more about preventing shrinking glaciers. Shrinking Glaciers are harmful and we have to prevent it. This is why i think it is important to studying more about melting glaciers.

  • OluwafemiA-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:41 p.m.

    I think that it is very important that we study about melting glaciers. Why, well because glaciers can be very important to many cultures. Such as people in the Andes, "they rely on the glaciers for drinking and irrigation water each summer." Without glaciers the people in the Andes wont be able to get water for their family.

  • FranciscoA-aer
    8/09/2019 - 01:50 p.m.

    I think it's important that we study melting glaciers because of the fact that glaciers melting can destroy coastal cities wasting money and melting glaciers can also make many water sources go down. The text states ''Rising seas threaten coastal cities around the world and put more people at risk of flooding during storms.'' and ''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.'' This is why I think it's important that we study melting glaciers.

  • KaylaG-aer
    8/09/2019 - 02:35 p.m.

    Its important that we study melting glaciers because, glaciers is apart of the earth and if all the glaciers melt then all the animals that need them will die. Another reason we need to study glaciers is because, if we really look into it we can stop global warming which would save many animals lives.

  • LaylaS-aer
    8/09/2019 - 02:37 p.m.

    Its important that we study glaciers because if too much of it were to melt there would be a high risk of floods and/or flash floods due to thunder storms and more. The passage stated, "Rising seas threaten coastal cities around the world and put more people at risk of flooding during storms." This proves that if the water cycle were to take place after it all melts the coastal cities would be underwater.

  • StephanieM-aer
    8/09/2019 - 02:40 p.m.

    I think it important we study melting glaciers. I think this because many people and animals depend off of the glaciers for water. If we don't continue studying glaciers they will all be gone one day and so many people and animals wont have whats necessary.

  • SamuelM-aer
    8/09/2019 - 02:40 p.m.

    It is important we study melting glaciers because if people did not study them we would not know how much they melted because of global warming. For example, if i am studying a birds eggs and then i stop studying them for a week then when i look to see them there not there. They could have hatched or a predator could have ate them. According to the text, "Global warming is shrinking glaciers faster than thought," 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. This is important because we would not have know that if we did not study it.

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