Speed of melting glaciers' destruction revealed

Further signs of dramatic climate change will be revealed this week with new figures showing that the world's glaciers are continuing to shrink at an alarming rate.

Further signs of dramatic climate change will be revealed this week with new figures showing that the world's glaciers are continuing to shrink at an alarming rate.

An annual study of glaciers in nine mountain ranges across five continents has confirmed that they receded by an average of 0.6 metres in 2005 alone.

Scientists say the average loss for the glaciers in the study since 1980 is nearly 10m, and things are expected to get even worse when figures are collected for last year, which was one of the warmest on record.

The UN Environment Programme said the glacier declines were further evidence of the severity of the problem facing the planet. 'The figures underline again and again and again the impact human-induced emissions are having on the world's climate,' said Nick Nuttall, the spokesman for UNEP. 'The glaciers melting along with extreme weather events - hurricanes, floods and droughts - are the most pressing manifestation of accelerating climate change.'

The World Glacier Monitoring Service measured 27 glaciers in 2005 and found the biggest losses of over three metres each were at the Sarennes glacier in the French Alps, and the Colombia and Yawning glaciers in the US.

Nuttall said: 'The glaciers are part of the water towers of the world and as a result feed many rivers across the globe which are vital for drinking water, agriculture and industry.'

Longer term there are serious concerns about the impact of huge quantities of melting ice on global sea levels - rises are already threatening many low-lying communities.

Dr Jack Kohler, a glaciologist with the Norwegian Polar Institute, said melting glaciers were thought to be contributing up to nearly half the annual sea level rise of 3mm. There are also fears that as the big ice masses shrink there will be less white ice to reflect the sun's heat back into the atmosphere, accelerating the process of warming and melting.


Juliette Jowit, environment editor

The GuardianTramp

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