|By PR Newswire||
|September 30, 2013 11:18 AM EDT||
SEATTLE, Sept. 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- There are about 160,000 glaciers in the world, and most of them have been around for thousands of years. But glaciers are currently shrinking at an alarming rate. Glacier expert Wendell Tangborn says glaciers are the proverbial "canaries in the coal mine" with regard to climate change, and the news isn't good. Over the past few decades, most glaciers have lost ice mass and many have disappeared completely, sending a clear warning of the consequences of runaway climate change.
In some regions, such as the Himalayas, glaciers act as naturally regulated water reservoirs that during dry years produce more water for human consumption than during wet years. The loss or decline of glaciers in these regions will create severe hardships for the people who live at the higher elevations of these glacierized areas.
But even more important than water supply is the sensitivity of glaciers to show minute changes in precipitation and temperature. In fact, glaciers are more sensitive to climate change than are humans. We should heed the warning signals they are sending us.
"Glaciers and humans have coexisted in many regions of the earth for at least 50,000 years. Extreme or even abnormal weather conditions threaten the existence of both glaciers and humans," continues Tangborn. "As the earth's glaciers melt and disappear, closely monitoring them may provide us with insights we need to respond to future climate changes."
Tangborn's PTAA Glacier Mass Balance Project has gathered data showing the devastation firsthand. Specifically, the project was developed to monitor the daily mass balance of up to 200 glaciers worldwide using only routine weather observations collected at low-altitude stations.
The PTAAGMB project measures 40 glaciers from thirteen countries. Detailed mass balance reports for nine of those glaciers are available at www.ptaagmb.com.
It is noteworthy that the cumulative mass balance of glaciers in the study does not reveal a plateau of global warming recently shown by temperature records for the 1998-2012 period. Since at least 1951, the annual mass balance of nearly all these glaciers has been predominantly negative, with no indication of leveling off since 1998.
The journal Cryosphere recently published an article about the application of the PTAA model to Bering Glacier. The article, titled "Mass balance, runoff and surges of Bering Glacier, Alaska", can be read here:
Read more news from Wendell Tangborn
SOURCE Wendell Tangborn