Water from the world’s shrinking glaciers was responsible for almost a third of the rise in sea levels between 2003 and 2009, shows new research.
An international team of scientist compared data gleaned from two NASA satellites as well as traditional ground measurements from glaciers around the world.
Their work, published in the journal Science , is the most accurate estimation of how glaciers contribute to sea level rises to date.
“For the first time, we’ve been able to very precisely constrain how much these glaciers as a whole are contributing to sea rise,” says lead author Assistant Professor Alex Gardner, assistant geography professor at Clark University in Worcester, Massachusetts.
“These smaller ice bodies are currently losing about as much mass as the ice sheets.”
The most significant ice losses occurred in Arctic Canada, Alaska, coastal Greenland, the southern Andes and the Himalayas, the study found.
The glaciers outside of the Greenland and Antarctic sheets lost an average of roughly 260 billion metric tons of ice annually during the period, leading to a rise in ocean levels of about 0.7 millimeters per year.
By contrast the glaciers in Antarctica, smaller ice masses that are not connected to the ice sheet, made scarcely any contribution to sea-level rise over the study period.
David Breashears says: “Eighty-six years after Mallory took that photograph, I sat in the exact spot where he had snapped his iconic picture. Pulling out his photo, I was stunned by the changes that had swept over this region. The wide river of ice had retreated more than half a mile, leaving a field of separated ice pinnacles melting into the rocky ground. In the distance, the ice streams on Everest’s flank also had shrunk, exposing more of the mountain’s dark face.”
“In 1989 when I first climbed Everest there was a lot of snow and ice but now most of it has just become bare rock. That, as a result, is causing more rockfalls which is a danger to the climbers,” he told AFP.
“Also, climbing is becoming more difficult because when you are on a mountain you can wear crampons but it’s very dangerous and very slippery to walk on bare rock with crampons.”
Speaking after completing the first third of a gruelling 1,700-kilometre (1,100-mile) trek across the Himalayas, Apa Sherpa would not rule out the possibility of Everest being unclimbable in the coming years.
“What will happen in the future I cannot say but this much I can say from my own experiences — it has changed a lot,” he said an an interview with AFP in the village of Gati, 16 kilometres from Nepal’s border with Tibet.
Must watch video: Google Earth Tour: How a Global Dam Boom Worsens the Climate Crisis. You’ll hear (maybe for the first time?) the deep voice of the famous human rights activist Nnimmo Bassey. Bassey takes you on a visual walk around the world to discuss the problem of damming rivers - by the thousands. His focus is on how hydro-dams are taking water from millions of locals depending on natural river systems. You have to see it. There’s a link below for more information.
International Rivers and Friends of the Earth International have teamed up to create a Google Earth 3D tour and video narrated by Nigerian activist Nnimmo Bassey, winner of the prestigious Right Livelihood Award and chair of Friends of the Earth International. The production was launched on the first day of the COP 17 climate meeting in Durban, South Africa on November 28, 2011. The video and tour allow viewers to explore why dams are the wrong answer to climate change, by learning about topics such as reservoir emissions, dam safety, and adaptation while visiting real case studies in Africa, the Himalayas and the Amazon.
A blog about the interactions between the built environment, people, and nature.
I'm a climate change consultant specializing in climate adaptation, environmental law, and urban planning based in the U.S. In addition to traveling and hiking, I research, publish, and lecture on how cities can adapt to climate change.
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