A new study of the world’s glaciers reveals that they are melting at a faster pace than previously estimated, posing an increasing threat of inundation to coastal communities and low-lying islands around the world.
The research found that other than the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica, glaciers lost 676 gigatons of ice per year on average between 2000 and 2019. The losses were said to have accelerated sharply during the period as global heating became more acute. Some glaciers have already vanished, with others expected to do so by the end of the century.
This is a particular threat in South Asia, where mountain glaciers are an important source of fresh water to rivers such as the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Indus.
Earth’s axis is being shifted by the human activities causing the current climate emergency and the redistribution of water resources through the pumping of groundwater for irrigation.
An international team of researchers says the shift started in the 1990s when global heating began to melt glaciers, sending much of the runoff into the oceans. Earth’s axis naturally drifts a little bit each year due to changes in winds, ocean currents and atmospheric pressures. But the redistribution of water from land to the oceans accelerated the drift between 1995 and 2020 by about 17 times. Vincent Humphrey of the University of Zurich says the drift is tiny and imperceptible to humans.
Boulders and rocks long frozen in place high across the world’s mountainous regions are now tumbling downslope due to the glacial melt brought on by global heating.
A tragic example occurred in February when rock and ice broke loose from a Himalayan peak, killed more than 200 people and destroyed a hydroelectric dam. Researchers in Switzerland have begun releasing “test rocks” from high in the Alps to better understand the dangers posed to humans and the landscape by the growing phenomenon. “Where a rock will land, how it will bounce, how high it will jump … we can answer all that,” said physicist Andrin Caviezel, one of the scientists involved in the experiments.
Israel Greenhouse Gas Emissions Rise
Methane emanating from Israel’s natural gas infrastructure is increasing the country’s overall global-warming greenhouse gas emissions by some eight percent and is probably preventing the country from meeting its international obligations on climate change, according to a new report by the environmental advocacy organization Adam Teva V’Din.
The finding contradicts claims by Energy Minister Yuval Steinitz that the move to natural gas is helping Israel reach its targets for lowering warming gases.
Pakistan under Threat of Glacial Floods
With more than 7,000, Pakistan has more glaciers than anywhere except the polar regions. But climate change is “eating away Himalayan glaciers at a dramatic rate”, a study published in the journal Science Advances noted.
As glacier ice melts, it can collect in large glacial lakes, which are at risk of bursting their banks and creating deadly flash floods downstream. More than 3,000 of those lakes had formed as of 2018, with 33 of them considered hazardous and more than 7 million people at risk downstream.
Melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled in past 20 years
The rate glaciers are melting in the Himalayas has doubled in just 20 years, according to a study which examined 40 years of satellite data.
Glaciers have been losing more than a vertical foot and a half of ice each year since 2000. This equates to 8 billion tons of water being released – or the equivalent of 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools.
The rate of melting is more than double that which took place between 1975 and 2000, according to the study published in Science Advances. It is the latest indication climate change is threatening the water supplies for 800 million people living downstream.
These glaciers currently harbour 600 billion tons of ice and they may have lost as much as one quarter of their mass over the past four decades.
Alaska’s Excelsior Glacier Is Being Replaced by a Lake 5 Times the Size of Central Park
Seventy years ago, Alaska’s Excelsior Glacier stretched its cold fingers from a vast plain in the state’s southern edge nearly all the way to the North Pacific Ocean. Now, the glacier is separated from the sea by a meltwater lake more than five times the size of New York City’s Central Park.
In a recent blog post on the American Geophysical Union (AGU) website, glaciologist Mauri Pelto of Nichols College in Massachusetts shows how that relatively new lake — now called Big Johnstone Lake — has more than doubled in size over the last 24 years as rising global temperatures force Excelsior Glacier into a hasty retreat. The glacier has lost about 30% of its length in just 24 years.
Even if no more calving ice makes its way into Big Johnston Lake, the glacier will continue to retreat, but probably at a slower pace than the rapid melting observed over the last 25 years. A similar fate has already befallen many neighboring glaciers in Alaska and British Columbia, Pelto wrote, providing yet more examples of how climate change is rapidly redrawing the map of our world.
Melting Glaciers bring threat of Flash Floods
The Himalaya, the breathtaking consequence of the battle between two tectonic plates, is home to spectacular mountains and a family of glaciers whose waters sustain 1.65 billion people across the region. The thawing of these glaciers leaves behind a myriad of lakes, some of which can suddenly burst their banks and flood downstream.
A satellite-based assessment of 1,291 glacial lakes in the Tibetan Plateau and along the main Himalaya range found that 16 percent of them potentially threaten human settlements. Since 1935, around 40 glacial lake outburst flood disasters have taken place across the Tibetan Plateau.
Mexico’s Glaciers Headed for Extinction
Mexican glaciers are currently doomed to extinction due to climate change, warned the director of the Institute of Geophysics of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), Hugo Delgado.
He assured that with the advance of global warming there will be no way to stop the disappearance of glaciers in the country, as it happened with the one located in the Popocatepetl volcano despite the fact that there is still some ice on the summit.
The Mexican correspondent of the Global Glacier Monitoring Service added that those located in the Iztaccihuatl volcano are ‘very likely to be seen as bodies of ice by five or 10 years and be also declared extinct.’
It contrast with that of Pico de Orizaba, the highest mountain in Mexico, with a different situation since it is not surrounded by industrial zones.
Being 5,570 meters above sea level, it is possible that Pico de Orizaba’s glacial feeding system will survive maybe a few more decades, the expert said.
Melting Glaciers Will Reveal Cold-War-Era Nuclear Waste
Melting glaciers have revealed a number of surprises over the past few years, from Viking artifacts in Norway to World War I burials in the Italian Alps. And one day, if global warming continues its current course, Greenland’s retreating ice sheet could expose a more troubling relic of the past: a Cold War military base and whatever biological, chemical and radioactive waste is left inside, scientists say.
NASA’s Earth Observatory posted maps today (Jan. 31) that show the changes expected to take place near the site of Camp Century, a once-secret U.S. military base built in 1959 primarily to test the possibility of launching nuclear missiles from the Arctic to the Soviet Union.
The site was abandoned in 1967 and is now buried about 100 feet (30 meters) beneath a crust of snow and ice. But the maps, analyzed as part of a study published in August 2016 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, show that because of ice loss, Camp Century could become an environmental hazard by the end of this century.
These maps show the surface mass balance of ice, or the net change between the accumulation and ablation of ice and snow on a glacier’s surface. Ablation happens when ice thins due to evaporation, melting and wind. The dark red indicates areas where the ice surface is likely to drop by 10 feet (3 meters) or more per year.
Warm ocean melting East Antarctica’s largest glacier
The largest glacier in East Antarctica, containing ice equivalent to a six-metre (20-foot) rise in global sea levels, is melting due to warm ocean water, Australian scientists said on Monday.
The 120-kilometre (74.4 mile) long Totten Glacier, which is more than 30 kilometres wide, had been thought to be in an area untouched by warmer currents. But a just-returned voyage to the frozen region found the waters around the glacier were warmer than expected and likely melting the ice from below. “We knew that the glacier was thinning from the satellite data, and we didn’t know why,” the voyage’s chief scientist Steve Rintoul told AFP.
He said that up until recently the East Antarctica ice sheet had been thought surrounded by cold waters and therefore very stable and unlikely to change much. But the voyage found that waters around the glacier were some 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than other areas visited on the same trip during the southern hemisphere summer. “We made it to the front of the glacier and we measured temperatures that were warm enough to drive significant melt,” Rintoul said. “And so the fact that warm water can reach this glacier is a sign that East Antarctica is potentially more vulnerable to changes in the ocean driven by climate change than we used to think.”
Previous expeditions had been unable to get close to the glacier due to heavy ice, but Rintoul said the weather had held for the Aurora Australis icebreaker and a team of scientists and technicians from the Australian Antarctic Division and other bodies.
Global Warming Threatens Sweden’s Highest Peak
Sweden’s highest peak risks losing its title as rising temperatures have eaten away at the glacier that forms the top of the mountain, a researcher said on Friday.
The southern peak of Kebnekaise mountain, the highest point in Sweden, has dropped by about 1m annually for the past 18 years, according to Gunhild Rosqvist, a geographer at Stockholm University.
“It’s a clear trend,” said Rosqvist, who also heads a research station in northern Sweden where the measurements are carried out. “There is no doubt that the melting process is caused by the warmer weather.”
The first measurements of Kebnekaise’s southern glacier top were done in 1902, when it was reported at 2 121m above sea level.
This year, it had dropped to 2 099m, giving it only a 3m lead over the mountain’s northern summit, which consists of solid rock.
Based on current trends, the northern summit could overtake the title as the highest peak within the next two or three years, said Rosqvist.
Massive Melting Of Andes Glaciers
The tropical glaciers in South America are melting at their fastest rate in 300 years. Glaciers in the tropical Andes have shrunk by 30-50% since the 1970s, according to a recent study.
The glaciers provide fresh water for tens of millions in South America.
The study included data on about half of all Andean glaciers and blamed the melting on an average temperature rise of 0.7C from 1950-1994.
Glaciers are retreating everywhere in the tropical Andes, but the melting is more pronounced for small glaciers at low altitudes.
Glaciers at altitudes below 5,400m have lost about 1.35m in ice thickness per year since the late 1970s, twice the rate of the larger, high-altitude glaciers.
Because the maximum thickness of these small, low-altitude glaciers rarely exceeds 40 metres, with such an annual loss they will probably completely disappear within the coming decades.
Water shortages: The researchers also say there was little change in the amount of rainfall in the region over the last few decades. Without changes in rainfall, the region would face water shortages in the future, the scientists say.
The Santa River valley in Peru would be most affected; its hundreds of thousands of inhabitants rely heavily on glacier water for agriculture, domestic consumption, and hydropower.
Large cities, such as La Paz in Bolivia, could also face problems. Glaciers provide about 15% of the La Paz water supply throughout the year, increasing to about 27% during the dry season.