August 7, 2009
Key glaciers shrinking at accelerated rate
The shrinking of three U.S. glaciers raises concerns about rising sea levels and the future availability of fresh drinking water, scientists said.
Climate change is shrinking the ice at an accelerated rate on the South Cascade Glacier in Washington state, the Wolverine Glacier on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula and the Gulkana Glacier in interior Alaska, The McClatchy Newspapers reported Friday.
The three glaciers, known as benchmark glaciers, have shown a rapid and sustained retreat, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Ed Josberger said.
The shrinkage means changes in water temperature for insects, fish and animals downstream and less available drinking water, said USGS scientist Shad O'Neel.
At the beginning of the 20th century, the South Cascade Glacier was estimated to be about 654 million cubic yards. By 1958, it had shrunk to half that size. In the years since, it has shrunk by half yet again, O'Neel said.
These three glaciers have been losing mass since they've been studied, and that mass loss has gotten more rapid in the past 15 years, O'Neel said.