Glacier Griefs

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Glacier griefs

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Glacier griefs

The past two months have proven to be bad for glaciers around the world. Due to global warming, many of the world’s glaciers are rapidly melting at unprecedented rates and are breaking off unnaturally. Unfortunately, there seems to be only more bad news to come.

In July, NASA satellites confirmed that an iceberg more than double the size of Manhattan, measuring 59-square-mile (150 square kilometers), has broken off the Petermann Glacier in Greenland, and global warming was the culprit. This news was followed by a study (published in Nature Climate Changeby Yao Tandong, a glaciologist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Research in Beijing, and his colleagues, disclosing that  the glaciers on the Tibetan plateau and the surrounding areas in the Himalaya are in rapid retreat.

Then, in August, came the Seattle Times piece sharing the author’s anecdote of how much the ice fields of Glacier National Park have changed. A park ranger reportedly told staff writer Danny Westneat that “they recently revised the end date, because the glaciers are retreating much faster than expected, now they’re saying they may be gone completely by 2020.” If all this was not bad enough, the month of September comes bearing more bad news for glaciers.

First off, scientists have announced that the Iliulissat glacier, also called the Jakobshavn, is retreating faster than any other glacier in the world. Just in 2012, measured from August 2011 to August 2012, the glacier front lost an an area of 13 sq km. Here’s Arctic researcher Jason Box‘s take on it:

One of the most productive outlets from the inland ice sheet, if not the most productive glacier in the Northern Hemisphere, the Ilulissat glacier (also known as the Jakobshavn glacier) continues to retreat, losing an estimated 13 sq km in area from August 2011 to August 2012. This years loss is the largest area loss since the 2007-2008 interval. The net area change at this glacier since late summer 2000 is a loss of 122 sq km, equivalent with 1.4 x Manhattan Is., retreating effectively 18 km (11.2 mi) in 12 years.

And then, of course, is the news that, according to new research published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, the Patagonian Icefield of South America have been on the decline for the past four decades, with the rate of melting increasing  by half over the past decade. Since 1998, the melting of the southern and northern Patagonian ice fields–which are the largest mass of ice in the southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica–have contributed about 2 percent of the total observed sea level rise.

The accepted culprit for the changes seen in glaciers is global warming. And the simple and harsh truth is that time is running out. Should we not be able to get a grip on rising temperatures then it is a very likely possibility that over the years to come, glaciers will become entirely obsolete.

Phpto by lostintheredwoods

  • Susmita Baral

    Susmita is a writer and editor in the Greater New York City area. In her spare time, Susmita enjoys cooking, traveling, dappling in photography, art history and interior design, and moonlighting as a therapist for her loved ones.

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