Glacier Melt Could Signal Faster Rise in Ocean Levels: Greenland's glaciers are melting into the sea twice as fast as previously believed, the result of a warming trend that renders obsolete predictions of how quickly Earth's oceans will rise over the next century, scientists said yesterday.
The new data come from satellite imagery and give fresh urgency to worries about the role of human activity in global warming. The Greenland data are mirrored by findings from Bolivia to the Himalayas, scientists said, noting that rising sea levels threaten widespread flooding and severe storm damage in low-lying areas worldwide.
The scientists said they do not yet understand the precise mechanism causing glaciers to flow and melt more rapidly, but they said the changes in Greenland were unambiguous -- and accelerating: In 1996, the amount of water produced by melting ice in Greenland was about 90 times the amount consumed by Los Angeles in a year. Last year, the melted ice amounted to 225 times the volume of water that city uses annually.
The Greenland study is the latest of several in recent months that have found evidence that rising temperatures are affecting not only Earth's ice sheets but also such things as plant and animal habitats, coral reefs' health, hurricane severity, droughts, and globe-girdling currents that drive regional climates.
While sea-level increases of a few feet may not sound like very much, they could have profound consequences on flood-prone countries such as Bangladesh and trigger severe weather around the world.
"The implications are global," said Julian Dowdeswell, a glacier expert at the University of Cambridge in England who reviewed the new paper for Science. "We are not talking about walking along the sea front on a nice summer day, we are talking of the worst storm settings, the biggest storm surges . . . you are upping the probability major storms will take place."
"Glaciers have retreated systematically and in an accelerated fashion in the last few decades," Casassa said. One glacier that provided Bolivia with its only ski slope five years ago has splintered into three and cannot be used for skiing, the scientist added.
Most climate scientists believe a major cause for Earth's warming climate is increased emissions of greenhouse gases as a result of burning fossil fuels, largely in the United States and other wealthy, industrialized nations such as those of western Europe but increasingly in rapidly developing nations such as China and India as well. Carbon dioxide and several other gases trap the sun's heat and raise atmospheric temperature.
"This study underscores the need to take swift, meaningful actions at home and abroad to address climate change," said Vicki Arroyo, director of policy analysis at the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.
The data highlight the lack of meaningful U.S. policy, she added: "This is the kind of study that should make people stay awake at night wondering what we're doing to the climate, how we're shaping the planet for future generations and, especially, what we can do about it."
So we're destroying the earth for future generations and the polar bears are starving, but the bird flu is coming, the bird flu is coming, the bird flu is coming...