March 17, 2008

UN Agency: Glaciers Experiencing Record Losses

The U.N. Environment Program announced on Sunday that the world's glaciers are experiencing record losses.

After studying almost 30 glaciers across nine mountain ranges worldwide, the UNEP said that about 1.4 meters of water was shed in 2006, compared to only half a meter lost in 2005.

Regions such as the Alps and Pyrenees in Europe have seen the most notable losses.

The rapid rate of loss could have large consequences for India, whose rivers stream from Himalayan glaciers. The west coast of North America could also be in danger as it relies on water from the Rockies and Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.

"There are many canaries emerging in the climate change coal mine," UNEP's executive director Achim Steiner said in a statement. "The glaciers are perhaps among those making the most noise and it is absolutely essential that everyone sits up and takes notice."

The most drastic loss was seen in Norway, where the Breidalblikkbrea glacier, shrank 10.2 feet in 2006

Between 1980 and 1999, glaciers only lost about one foot of ice each year. At the turn of the millennium, the rate increased to almost 20 inches and continues to rise.

"The latest figures are part of what appears to be an accelerating trend with no apparent end in sight," said Wilfried Haeberli, director of the Zurich-based World Glacier Monitoring Service.


On the Net:

U.N. Environment Program

World Glacier Monitoring Service