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Earth's ice cover melting at record rate Source: DPA
Published: Tuesday March 7, 10:26 AM

WASHINGTON, March 6 - Alpine glaciers and polar ice caps are melting at a faster rate than at any time since records have been kept on the phenomenon, and the rate accelerated tremendously in the past decade, a US environmental watchdog group said today.

A report by the Washington-based Worldwatch Institute found that large-scale melting is taking place on an unprecedented level in the Arctic sea ice, the Antarctic and in dozens of mountain and subpolar glaciers.

The shrinkage of the Earth's ice cover could have profound changes on the global climate while rising sea levels could spark regional flooding. Melting of mountain glaciers could also threaten urban water supplies and the habitats of plant and animal species in fragile environments, the report said.

The meltage has been particularly noticeable in the past three decades and scientists suspect it is the result of human behavior and the buildup of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

The Arctic sea ice has shrunk by six per cent since 1978, with a 14 per cent loss of the thickest year-round ice. The average thickness has dropped from 3.1 metres to 1.8 metres - a decline of nearly 40 per cent in the last three decades. The Greenland Ice Sheet, which comprises 8 per cent of the world's ice, has thinned by more than a metre per year on average since 1993 on its southern and eastern edges.

The world's mountain glaciers are now shrinking faster than they are growing. Scientists predict that a quarter of global mountain glacier mass could disappear by 2050.

Within the next 35 years, the Himalayan glacial area is expected to shrink by one-fifth, to just 100,000 kilometres. Glaciers in Central Asia, China and Russia also have retreated by 20 to 60 per cent in the past three decades.

The Quelccaya Glacier which supplies water to Lima, Peru, is now retreating at an average of 30 metres a year, up from only 3 metres annually in the 1970s.


Tabled to add to the awareness articles about the warming scenario - as reported in OZ...

Regards from Down Under

-- Pieter (, March 07, 2000


Have you ever seen or studied a geologic table?

This has happened throught out earth's history in geologic time.

Nothing new here.

-- WhoMe (WhoMe@nowhere.home), March 07, 2000.

Yup. Nothing new here, WhoMe?
I'm just passing on the news as it's reported in OZ. Probably a bad idea since this board is hickledy- pickledy enough without me adding to the emptiness.


-- Pieter (, March 07, 2000.

Yes, Who Me, you are right; this has happened throughout geologic time. But......from what I understand, it is being helped along at an accelerated rate by all the world wide pollution. Frankly, should it be going to happen, pollution or not, then we may as well kick back and enjoy our little time in the sun. But if cutting the burning of fossil fuels would buy us a little time, maybe we should make a wee effort, at least for our grandkiddies. Rebuttals anyone???

-- gilda (, March 07, 2000.

What makes this period of warming different from others in our geologic past is that a large percentage of humanity lives on the coastal areas of the world. A rise in sea level of only a few feet would inundate coastal cities. Large areas of polar ice extend over water; should they thin and break into the ocean, sudden flooding of coastal areas is possible.

-- helen (, March 07, 2000.

Consider low-lying populations' relocation and the effect that will have. If this excessive melting continues, I wonder if the U.S. will have another 1900's-style immigration boom...

Guess I'll have to research OSU's website to see what their polar research dept. is doing... (LadyBuckeye - Does that dept. still exist?)

-- Deb M. (, March 07, 2000.

Rebuttals, gilda? You just saved me the trouble of composing another 500-word essay by making that important point in one, lucid paragraph.

I can only wonder along with you at the short-sightedness and lack of caution exibited by the majority in Western culture. What kind of world do they think they're bequething their great-grandchildren? Would they really like to live in that world?

Doomers are not born pessimistic. They get that way from reading, learning, thinking and caring about others, some yet unborn, who might also enjoy a planet with clean air and water, free from dangerous materials---a place to raise their children in health and peace.

So when did it become taboo to raise the question: "What can we do now to help that happen?" We may be the first generation of mankind to ask that question. We may be the first generation to have to.


"Ignorance, stupidity, apathy, and denial---The first consisting of lack of exposure to information the second of lack of capacity to absorb it, and the third and fourth of having the information but lacking the conviction or optimism or fortitude to act on it." ---unknown

-- (, March 07, 2000.

Curious how the dinosaurs lived during an era that was supposedly MUCH warmer than today? Wonder what "man-made" problems caused that global warming?

-- GetReal (, March 07, 2000.

Interestingly, ice core samples taken in Greenland and elsewhere indicate that ice ages start and end with stunning rapidity -- from start to completed change within 100 years, as closely as we can interpret these cores. In other words, these are NOT gradual several- thousand-year phenomena.

This suggests some global climatic phase-change events too place, and also suggests (since there have been many ice ages and warm ages) that our climate seems to abide fairly close to the phase boundary, awating some as yet undertermined trigger mechanism(s). Several mechanisms have been proposed, from volcanic action to ice or land barriers forming/breaking up leading to (fairly) immediate changes in oceanic currents.

There have been a few Scientific American articles within the last few years, wherein researchers try to understand how an ice age can *end*, given the high albedo ice presents.

As to whether the atmospheric changes due solely to human activity can cause or contribute critically to such a phase change, we lack a model that can yet give us a clue. But even if we don't present a threat to global climate, pollution IS causing visible effects like smog and acid rain, and is a Bad Thing except for the great cost that preventing pollution would represent, which is also a Bad Thing.

-- Flint (, March 07, 2000.

"...except for the great cost that preventing pollution would represent, which is also a Bad Thing."---Flint

Please, Flint, don't push THAT button. I haven't got time right now. Suffice it to say: that is the corporate attitude that's preventing us from doing anything about it.

Another perspective says that converting technology to less toxic protocols would actually be a boon to the economy worldwide. If you're really interested, see Natural Capitalism by Paul Hawken.


"Bad ideas flourish because they are in the interest of powerful groups."---Paul Krugman

-- (, March 07, 2000.


Sorry, but I don't happen to belong to *that* church either. Nor am I conversant with the incredible wealth of totally one-sided information so familiar to the congregation. I agree there's a great deal we can do better, but I never get one of the Devout to notice all that IS being done. Instead, the Devout say we are "doing nothing about it" and that's the fax jack!

So even granting everything Hawken has to say as Gospel, as far as I'm concerned big lifestyle changes are costs, even if for the better. For most of us, these are not unmitigated bargains. Instead, they are trade-offs beneficial in the eyes of not nearly everyone.

-- Flint (, March 07, 2000.

Hi Hallyx, Do you subscribe to the (ENS) Environmental News Service, if so, could you make a link to it for this thread.


-- gilda (, March 07, 2000.

" far as I'm concerned big lifestyle changes are costs, even if for the better."---Flint (?)

Awwright!!! Who's using Flint's sig and email address? Flint is not noted for unprovoked sarcasm nor illogical churlish opinion.

"Who is this, really?" ---Bill Cosby (Noah)

-- (, March 07, 2000.


Just learned that today. Need the practice, thanks.

Most of ENS material, and much more, comes to me from Mark Graffis on the Gaia-l newsgroup list. They're also on Onelist.

Oh! Ooohh...did I say a bad word?


"What can we do?" The more interesting question is, "How can we be?" --- Ram Dass

-- (, March 07, 2000.


I have no desire for us to hurl Bibles at one another.

What I was trying to point out is that change is a cost in a general sense. People who graduate from college (a good thing), and get married (a good thing) and move to a new city (neutral) to start a brand new job (a good thing) have a VERY high incidence of nervous breakdowns. Too many changes, of significant impact, all at once. Even though none of them are bad.

Most of us have a pretty good constellation of material goals in life, and these goals often require there be no major lifestyle changes. Losing one's goals is painful, even if the new goals one is forced to substitute are somehow "better". I'd love an expensive vehicle, even though walking is better for me. I treasure the library threatening to take over the place, despite all the trees it (and the place) represent. I could go on and on.

So I think the inertia, the resistence to making these big changes, isn't purely a reflection of the Mindless Masses Chanting Corporate Doctrine For Short Term Profit For Somebody Else. Values change slowly.

In any case, what does this have to do with climatology?

-- Flint (, March 07, 2000.


-- (, March 08, 2000.

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