Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Alpine glacier may melt, destroying climate data

MSNBC via Our Amazing Planet: The highest glacier in the eastern Alps is little-studied, and could contain within its ice more than 1,000 years of the local climate record. But how long that record will be around is a worrying matter for scientists. Global warming could take a toll on the ice, melting it before researchers can take enough samples. This worry has sent scientists scrambling to retrieve data before the glacier disappears. [Related: Tracking a Retreating Glacier.]

The glacier, Alto dell'Ortles, lies 12,812 feet (3,905 meters) above sea level, and, as far as glaciers go, is dainty: The area it covers is just under a half square mile (1.04 square kilometers). An even smaller area, only about 10 percent of the glacier, likely holds a good climate record, according to a new study in the Journal of Glaciology.

"This is a mountain that is very difficult to climb, and that has probably prevented researchers and glaciologists from Europe from going up there to study the ice," said study team member Paolo Gabrielli of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State University. However, Gabrielli said, the glacier offers an ideal environment to study climate change in the region….

Il Ghiacciaio del Gran Crou - Alpi Graie - Italy. Wrong glacier, but a great shot by Nostromo-io, who has released the image into the public domain

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