Massive loss of ice from large glaciers

ESA produced a shocking documentary about the melting during an expedition to the Gorner Glacier in Switzerland, one of the largest ice masses in the Alps

Today, every glacier on the planet is losing ice. It’s not even resistant to Alaska’s Taku Glacier, the last to show damage. Warming has melted more than 9.6 trillion tons of glacial ice in the world since 1961, a study by the University of Zurich (Switzerland) revealed in 2019, and threatens to evaporate more than a third of glaciers by 2100, as predicted by World Fund of Wildlife (WWF). Earth loses ice at record speed.

ESA (European Space Agency), produced a documentary about the dramatic melting. The documentary is called Melt and was filmed during a scientific expedition to one of the largest ice masses in the Alps.

The documentary has been released on YouTube and subtitles are available (automatically generated by YouTube); select your language using YouTube player controls:

Glaciers around the world have lost more than nine trillion tons of ice in half a century. What will the glaciers look like in the coming decades? “It all depends on what humans are doing right now in terms of greenhouse gas emissions” – this is the message one scientist conveyed during an ESA-led expedition to Switzerland’s Gorner Glacier, one of the largest ice masses in the Alps.

As world leaders gather for the 26th United Nations Conference of the Parties on Climate Change, the documentary that follows ESA astronaut Luca Parmitano has just been released, along with a team of glaciologists and climate experts, on his journey across the Alps to find out how global temperatures are rising and how glaciers are taking their toll.

The documentary features a stunning landscape of the Gorner Glacier, as well as interviews with climate experts explaining how we can monitor glaciers using satellite data and measurements.

The melting of glaciers

When we think about climate change, one of the first things that comes to mind is the melting of the poles. However, ice loss is not limited to the polar regions. According to an article published today, since 1961 our planet’s glaciers have lost more than 9,000 gigatonnes (nine billion tons) of ice, which has caused the sea level to rise by 27 mm.

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An international team, led by the University of Zurich (Switzerland), has combined classic glaciological observations in the field with extensive information from different satellite missions to carefully calculate how much ice has been lost or gained in 19 glacialized regions around the world.

it is study, published in Nature, reveals that glaciers lost 9,625 gigatonnes of ice between 1961 and 2016.

The largest regional losses occurred in Alaska, followed by glaciers on the edges of the Greenland ice sheet and glaciers in the southern Andes. Significant amounts were also lost in glaciers in the Canadian and Russian Arctic regions, as well as in the Svalbard archipelago.

Glaciers in temperate regions, such as those in the European Alps and the Caucasus Mountains, have not been spared this trend either, but they are too small for their losses to contribute to rising sea levels.

Glacier ice descent in India

It is striking that the only area where ice has increased in the 55-year period studied is southwest Asia. In this region, glaciers gained 119 gigatonnes of ice; In contrast, Southeast Asia (ASE) lost about the same amount, 112 gigatonnes.

ESA’s Climate Change Initiative – a research program dedicated to generating global datasets for key components of the Earth’s climate, known as “essential climate variables” – was also central to the study.

“While we can now provide clear information on how much ice each glacial region has lost, it should also be noted that the rate at which this loss has occurred has increased significantly over the past 30 years. Right now we’ve lost a total of 335 billion tons of ice per year, which equates to a sea level rise of almost 1 mm per year”, warns Michael Zemp, principal investigator of the study.

Panmah and Choktoi Glaciers

Although the main cause of the rise in sea level remains the warming of ocean waters, melting glaciers are the second cause of the increase in ocean volume.

Worldwide, the disappearance of glaciers ultimately means less water for millions of people, less hydroelectric power and less availability to irrigate crops. Melting glaciers cause sea levels to rise, but it also critically increases the risk of other natural disasters, such as glacial lake floods and the transport of associated debris.

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