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Glacier-melting debate highlights importance of satellites

The intense public debate on how rapidly the Himalayan glaciers are retreating highlights the necessity for the constant monitoring of glaciers worldwide by satellites.
Since glaciers are among the most reliable indicators of climate change and because they can have a major influence on water availability, knowledge of the recent changes and future behaviour is of great interest for climate scientists and governing bodies. A key to assess these changes or to model their future evolution is the existence of a detailed glacier inventory.

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British geographers find uncharted glaciers in Albania

A team of British geographers has discovered a group of previously uncharted glaciers in an inhospitable European mountain range.
The academics from Manchester University found the four glaciers in the Prokletije or "cursed" mountains of Albania. They have formed at an altitude of 2,000 metres, relatively low for such a southerly latitude. Other glaciers at this latitude survive only on higher mountains further north.

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Geologist Bakutbek Ermenbaev points up through the pine trees at the glacier above us in Kyrgyzstan's Alatau mountains.

"That one - called Adigene - has decreased in size by about 20% over the last 50 years"

He adds that a neighbouring glacier, Aksai, has disappeared completely.

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One of the largest glaciers in Antarctica is thinning four times faster than it was 10 years ago, according to research seen by the BBC.
A study of satellite measurements of Pine Island glacier in west Antarctica reveals the surface of the ice is now dropping at a rate of up to 16m a year.

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Die Gletscherbestände der Erde zählen bei den Klimaprognosen zu den «unsicheren» Faktoren. Es ist schwierig, das Eisvolumen genau zu bestimmen und seine Auswirkungen - etwa auf den Meeresspiegelanstieg - sind deshalb mit Unsicherheiten behaftet. Das Abschmelzen der Gletscher trägt aber nicht nur zum Meeresspiegelanstieg bei. Sie verkleinern die Trinkwasserressourcen und verändern das Landschaftsbild und das Okosystem nachhaltig. Auch die Schweiz ist betroffen: Die Schweizer Gletscher haben in den vergangenen zwanzig Jahren enorm an Fläche eingebüsst. Vor allem in den vergangenen zehn Jahren, den wärmsten der vergangenen 150 Jahre.

ETH Zurich

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Modern glaciers, such as those making up the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets, are capable of undergoing periods of rapid shrinkage or retreat, according to new findings by paleoclimatologists at the University at Buffalo.
The paper, published on June 21 in Nature Geoscience, describes fieldwork demonstrating that a prehistoric glacier in the Canadian Arctic rapidly retreated in just a few hundred years.
The proof of such rapid retreat of ice sheets provides one of the few explicit confirmations that this phenomenon occurs.
Should the same conditions recur today, which the UB scientists say is very possible, they would result in sharply rising global sea levels, which would threaten coastal populations.

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Scientists from three countries will camp out high in Mt Cook National Park for the next three weeks collecting ice cores from glaciers for climate research.
During daylight hours they will use a special drill with a hollow barrel to recover ice cores right down to the bedrock. After dark they will hunker down at high altitude in nylon tents built to Antarctic standards.

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New Dating Method Shows Glaciers Out Of Sync
Scientists have gained new insights to global climate patterns from the advances and retreats of glaciers in the Mount Cook region over the past 7000 years.
Glaciers are sensitive indicators of changing climate. They become shorter when the climate warms, and lengthen when it cools.

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After years of decline, glaciers in Norway are again growing, reports the Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE). The actual magnitude of the growth, which appears to have begun over the last two years, has not yet been quantified, says NVE Senior Engineer Hallgeir Elvehøy.
The flow rate of many glaciers has also declined. Glacier flow ultimately acts to reduce accumulation, as the ice moves to lower, warmer elevations.
The original trend had been fairly rapid decline since the year 2000.

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The recent dramatic melting and breakup of a few huge Greenland glaciers have fuelled public concerns over the impact of global climate change, but that isnt the islands biggest problem.
A new study shows that the dozens of much smaller outflow glaciers dotting Greenlands coast together account for three times more loss from the islands ice sheet than the amount coming from their huge relatives.

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