Mountain glaciers around the world are shrinking

Mountain glaciers, which are more sensitive to changes in climate than polar ice, have been found to have been receding over the past decade, following research by the United States Geological Survey (USGS).


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The research by the Global Land Ice Measurement from Space (GLIMS), using NASA’s Advanced Spaceborne Termal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER), involved comparisons of new satellite data with historical records and photographs of glaciers on mountains around the world, and revealed that most glaciers have reduced in size, some significantly.

According to Dr Rick Wessels, one of the researchers, examples of shrinking glaciers include some in the Andes Mountains which have decreased by almost a kilometre in the past 13 years, and one in Colombia which is losing metres of ice each week. There are also receding glaciers in the Pyrenees Mountains, and in the Swiss Alps. However, a number of glaciers, mainly limited to mountains in Scandinavia, have actually increased in size.

The team is also able to look at the health of glaciers, using high resolution satellite images to examine crevasses and small bodies of water on the surface of the ice, and eventually intends to monitor the status of every glacier in the world, creating long-term assessments of glacier hazards.

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