Friday, August 7, 2009

Climate change melting US glaciers at faster rate, study finds

A composite image showing South Cascade glacier in Washington state (year 2000, left, 2006, right). A new study today found a sharp rise in the melt rate of three key American glaciers over the last 10-15 years. Photograph: USGS

Climate change is melting America's glaciers at the fastest rate in recorded history, exposing the country to higher risks of drought and rising sea levels, a US government study of glaciers said today. The long-running study of three "benchmark" glaciers in Alaska and Washington state by the US geological survey (USGS) indicated a sharp rise in the melt rate over the last 10 or 15 years.

Scientists see the three - Wolverine and Gulkana in Alaska and South Cascade in Washington - as representative of thousands of other glaciers in North America.

"The observations show that the melt rate has definitely increased over the past 10 or 15 years," said Ed Josberger, a USGS scientist. "This certainly is a very strong indicator that climate change is occurring and its effects on glaciers are virtually worldwide." The survey also found that all three glaciers had begun melting at the same higher rate - although they are in different climate regimes and some 1,500 miles apart.

The complete article at the U.K's Guardian is here.

The Los Angeles Times has a slightly different angle; the report tracked 3 "benchmark glaciers" over the span of 50 years.

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