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The natural world. Looking pretty for 3.5b years.

Wasting Away

Author: Hugh Bollinger/Thursday, July 9, 2015/Categories: natural history, photography, sustainability, environment, climate change

ave Melting glaciers are the prime source of sea level rise worldwide. Whether from Antarctica, Greenland, or Alaska as their glaciers recede, melt waters flow into the oceans at an increasing rate. This is particularly true in the Arctic, which is fast warming place on Earth. A time-line comparison of glacier ice mass was compiled from NASA satellite data producing maps showing their decline from the region over a 19 year period.

 
              

The maps generated by NASA show glacial ice changes between 1994 and 2013 in southern Alaska and partions of British Columbia and the Yukon. The "big data" composites show the ice balance, the difference between the ice each glacier has gained and lost each year. The change is shown in feet of meltwater equivalent; ie, the depth of water that would result if that ice were melted. The redder the color the glaciers have thinned the most while blue shows where they have thickened. A close-up show the Wrangell and St. Elias mountain glaciers.

Reporting in  Geophysical Research Letters  researchers have determined that the region lost nearly 75 billion tons of ice per year over the 19-year satellite monitoring period. That volume represents ~30 percent of the amount of ice thought to be lost each year from the Greenland ice sheet. As a comparison, original climate change models predicted that melting of the Arctic pack ice would create an ice-free ocean by the end of the 21st Century. Newest estimates now indicate this could happen as early as 2017, nearly 75 years ahead the early predictions.

Climate change seems to be accelerating in the Arctic as these studies indicate. While pack ice floats on water, the glaciers melting in Alaska, Canada, and Greenland do not.Their melt water goes directly into the ocean affecting  sea levels along coastal zones. The impact these northern glaciers should be of general concern but there have been calls by some congressional representatives to reduce the ability of the space and weather gathering agencies to focus on climate change investigations. A potential sea level rise of 20+ feet might from glacial melt, uncovered by these such monitoring agencies and other  earth science researchers , may cause some these "climate deniers" to rethink their positions before their voting districts disappear under rising tides.

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