Tuesday, January 26, 2010

World's glaciers continue to melt at historic rates

Juliette Jowit in the Guardian (UK): Glaciers across the globe are continuing to melt so fast that many will disappear by the middle of this century, the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) said today. The announcement of the latest annual results from monitoring in nine mountain ranges on four continents comes as doubts have been cast on how much climate scientists have exaggerated the problem of glacier melt, which is seen as a leading indicator of how much the planet is heating up.

Last week the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) apologised for "a paragraph" in its four-volume 2007 report which warned there was a "very high" risk that the Himalayan glaciers, on which at least half a billion of the world's poorest people depend for water, would disappear by 2035. However the director of the WGMS, Professor Wilfried Haeberli, said the latest global results indicated most glaciers were continuing to melt at historically high rates.

"The melting goes on," said Haeberli. "It's less extreme than in years [immediately before] but what's really important is the trend of 10 years or so, and that shows an unbroken acceleration in melting."

Haeberli also repeated his warning that many glaciers are set to disappear in the next few decades, due to an expected continuation in the rise of global average temperatures. The most vulnerable glaciers were those in lower mountain ranges like the Alps and the Pyrenees in Europe, in Africa, parts of the Andes in South and Central America, and the Rockies in North America, said Haeberli.

"We are on the path of the highest scenario [of global warming] in reality, but if you take a medium scenario in the Alps about 70% will be gone by the middle of the century, and mountain ranges like the Pyrenees may be completely ice-free."…

The Rhone Glacier in 1900

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