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North America's glaciers melt four times faster than they did a decade ago



Photo: Richard Droker (Flickr)

In the icy landscapes of the world, climate change is causing a major collapse. This also applies to the western US and Canada, where not only ice disappears, but also faster than a decade ago. This emerges from a new study published this week in Geophysical Research Letters.

The faster melt can be partly attributed to a shift in weather conditions in recent years, which has worked in conjunction with rising temperatures to accelerate ice runoff.

The glaciers of North America are remnants of the Ice Age. They cling to high peaks from British Columbia to Montana, where they are filled with snow every winter and the temperatures are cool enough to keep them more or less balanced for centuries. But now people have taken that equation out of balance and dumped carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. The result was the death of ice.

There are ice monitoring stations to measure what's scattered in the West, but new research uses satellites to see how much ice has changed. By recognizing the differences in altitude from year to year from 2000 to 2000, the scientists were able to draw a comprehensive picture of the decline in ice. Brian Menounos, a glacier researcher at the University of Northern British Columbia, told Earther that research could "improve the modeling efforts for the fate of North American glaciers in the West over the coming decades."

More than 80 percent of the glaciers showed a loss Height differences mean that they lose ice faster than snow, which melts again. In northern British Columbia, the breakthrough was most dramatic.

From 2000 to 2009, western North America lost an average of 2.9 gigatons of ice per year or about 1

.16 million Olympic-size swimming pools. From 2009 to 2008, however, the loss of ice quadrupled to 12.3 gigatons per year. The researchers explain that part of this shift in weather patterns is due to warmer, drier weather in the Southern Coast Mountains of British Columbia, where half the ice of the study area is located.

"We still do not know where the jet-stream shift came from," Menounos said. "It can be natural variability or even a manifestation of man-made climate change. More work is needed on this topic.

But ice loss would not be possible with rising background temperatures. All of this is of concern to the Lowlanders. Apart from the fact that some of the most beautiful landscapes on the continent and the plants and animals they call home are being destroyed by climate change. These glaciers also store a large amount of water for grain and drinking water, while attracting hikers and skiers from afar. Their disappearance threatens to drastically change entire economies, with the result that climate projections show that places like Glacier National Park could be so worrying in the 2030s.
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