Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why are glaciers melting? True facts

These days many people know the answer to "why are the glaciers melting" question. The simplest answer to this question is because of the global warming. If we want to further explain this then we would have to say that melting of the glaciers is happening because of excessive CO2 emissions that are the result of fossil fuels burning. Fossil fuels are currently dominant energy fuels, and fossil fuels combustion sends vast quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere, much more than oceans and forests can absorb. Increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere give more impact to greenhouse effect making our planet warmer in the process, and one of the most serious consequences of global warming is glaciers melting.

Melting of glaciers could create real environmental havoc in years to come. Not only will the sea level rise and flood many coastal areas turning many people into refugees, but this would also cause severe water shortages problems because glaciers are world's largest reservoirs of water that contain around 70% of total freshwater on our planet. Glaciers at Arctic are melting at extremely rapid rate, and some scientists even believe that Arctic will become ice-free by the 2040 if current melting trend continues. Ice on Antarctica is also melting, luckily not as fast as in Arctic but still fast enough to worry scientists.

Arctic's sea ice also helps cooling the planet by reflecting the sun's radiation back into space, with less ice on surface, the sun's radiation would instead be absorbed by the open water, contributing to even warmer water and air temperatures. How serious is ice melting at Arctic? Perennial ice at Arctic now only covers less than 30 % of the Arctic, and the thinner the ice is, the more easily it melts, meaning that melting rate will be even bigger in years to come. Most pessimistic estimates predict Arctic without ice in less than 30 years from now.

The condition is not much better with Antarctica either. Antarctica is also warming overall, and the most serious ice melting event happened in 2005 when a mass of ice about the size of California briefly melted and refrozed because of unusually high temperatures on Antarctica. High temperatures haven't left Antarctica intact, on the contrary, the area of Antarctic Peninsula had gigantic increase in annual average temperature at about 2,5 °C in the last 50 years which is almost three times faster than world's average. Ice melting that is happening at the Antarctica is causing sea level around Antarctica to rise by 0.4 millimeters per year, and if temperatures continue to rise this number could be lot higher in years to come.

Arctic and Antarctica aren't the only areas on our planet that have problems with glaciers melting. Himalayan glaciers are also melting at a rapid rate, for instance two very big Himalayan glaciers are melting extremely fast; Gangotri glacier is shrinking at a rate of 17 m per year, while glacier Pindari is shrinking at around 10 m per year. This will in short term create flooding and in the long term severe water shortages for big parts of Asia.

In Europe glaciers are also melting fast. If we take a look at the available data for Swiss glaciers we can see that glaciers in Switzerland shrank by huge 12 percent in the last 10 years. The worst year was 2003 when Swiss glaciers shrunk by astonishing 3.5 percent. As you can see global warming is really global phenomenon and it affects all parts of the world.

UN Environment Programme (UNEP) announced on March 16th, 2008 (based on the WGMS results) that the world glaciers are melting rapidly with the latest official figures showing record losses. Currently available data between the years 2004-2005 and 2005-2006 shows that the average rate of melting and thinning more than doubled. During 1980-1999, average loss rates had been 0.3 metros per year. Since the year 2000, the warming trend has increased this rate to about half a meter per year.


  1. Great article.
    How do you do that little question survey thingy?
    Please let me know, as I would like to put it on my website as well.


  2. was there global warming 10000 years ago when they were melting