Monday 4 April 2011

SEA LEVEL RISES THE FASTEST IN 350 YEARS DUE TO MELTING MOUNTAIN GLACIERS IN CHILE




According to research by Welsh scientists, Melting mountain glaciers are making sea levels rise faster in the last 350 years.The world's glaciers are melting up to 100 times faster than any time during the last 350 years.

The amount of ice lost from the 270 Patagonian glaciers is equivalent to filling Windermere in the Lake District more than 1,700 times.They mapped changes in 270 of the largest glaciers between Chile and Argentina since the "Little Ice Age".

Studies showed glaciers have lost volume on average "10 to 100 times faster" in the last 30 years.The rapid melt rate is linked to their contribution to global sea level.The researchers analysed the rocky debris left by glaciers on the sides of mountains to work out how big they once were - and how much ice has vanished.


Since the Little Ice Age ended in Patagonia in the middle of the 17th century, the 270 glaciers that now cover an area of at least 0.4 square miles have lost 145 cubic miles of ice.Because water is denser than ice that is equivalent to about 130 cubic miles of water.

Over the same period temperatures have gone up by around 1.4 C in the region, the scientists report in the journal Nature Geoscience.Their survey centred on remotely sensed images of outlet glaciers of the south and north Patagonian icefields, but used longer timescales than previous studies.The northern icefield extends for nearly 200 km and covers a surface of 4,200 square km, while the southern icefield is more than 350km long, covering 13,000 square km.


The scientists mapped changes in the position of the glaciers since the "Little Ice Age".The team calculated the volume of ice lost by the glaciers as they have retreated and thinned over the past 350 years and compared these volume losses to rates of change over the last 30 years.


"They cover only the last 30 years or so when satellite images can be used to calculate rates of glacier volume change.The study, which has been published in the journal Nature Geoscience, concludes the mountain glaciers have rapidly increased their melt rate in recent years and consequently their contribution to global sea level.

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