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How Could 1,600 Years of Ice Melt in Just 25 Years?

How Could 1,600 Years of Ice Melt in Just 25 Years?

1,600 years of ice in the Andes has melted in just a quarter of a century. It’s yet more evidence about climate change caused by carbon emissions, a fact that climate skeptics still deny, even as Greenland is becoming a greenhouse, the earth is the hottest it’s been in 11,000 years and the North Pole will soon be open for commercial shipping.

Last week, glaciologists from Ohio State University reported in the journal Science that 1,600 years of ice in the Andes mountains in Perus melted in a mere 25 years. The Quelccaya ice cap is the world’s largest tropical ice sheet and sits at 18,000 feet above sea level. Glaciologist Lonnie G. Thompson and his colleagues have been studying the ice cap intermittently for decades. About a quarter of a century ago, they discovered long-dead plants near a lake formed from meltwater from the glacier; chemical analysis showed that these plants were lived about 4,700 years ago, meaning that the ice cap had shrunk to its smallest in five millennia.

Further exploration has now turned up plants that had been frozen by glaciers even further back in time, about 6,300 years ago. Had the plants been exposed at “any time in the last 6,000 years … they would have decayed,” as Thompson explains in the New York Times. In just about 25 years, 1,600 years of ice has melted.

Thompson’s research is further evidence that the melting of glaciers is occurring at the fastest rate ever since the last ice age. The impact on local communities in the Andes could soon be felt: while glacial melting is causing a current increase in water supplies and leading to population growth in the region, the fact is that the glaciers are shrinking. Water supplies in cities including Lima and La Paz could eventually decline by as much as 50 percent, Douglas R. Hardy, a University of Massachusetts researcher notes to the New York Times.

It goes without saying that “glaciers will melt faster than ever and loss could be irreversible, warn scientists.” This is actually the title of a recent report from  about glaciers elsewhere, including Canada’s Arctic Archipelago. Using computer modeling, European scientists have been studying the rate at which glaciers in Canada’s Arctic Archipelago have been melting. Their computer simulations have, as it turns out, correctly predicted the shrinking of the glaciers, due to snow melting on the tundra and sea ice loss from around them.

After Greenland and Antartica, Canada’s Arctic Archipelago glaciers are the third-largest ice body in the world. In 2000, temperatures in the Arctic Archipelago rose by 1 to 2 degrees Centigrade, the volume of ice significantly shrank and the sea level rose. Should the Canadian ice caps melt completely, the scientists predict a rise of global average sea level of 20 centimeters, or almost 8 inches.

Knowing that the World Bank has predicted that Peru’s mountaintop glaciers are melting, Peruvian activist-inventor Eduardo Gold has proposed to paint the mountaintops white to “simulate the reflective qualities of mountaintop glaciers and help slow the warming effect that ice-free mountaintops may have on the surrounding environment.” It’s a clearly outlandish idea and the Peruvian government has said it plans to channel funds to other climate adaptation projects. Given the repeated reports about climate change’s irreversible effects, one sometimes has to wonder if we may end up trying such desperate measures.

 

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235 comments

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7:53PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

@ Robert G.

"How does ice reflect sunlight?", you ask. When you look at large icy areas from a distance, like the Arctic or the tips of the Andes, they appear white in pigment. White reflects the sun, just like those little white houses you see in hot countries like Spain and Croatia, or that white T-shirt you might wear when you're outside on a hot day, to reflect the heat.
It's the same reason why Kristina Chew and Co want the tips of the mountains coloured white where the ice has melted off, to prevent too much sunlight from entering. It might sound a bit far-fetched to some, but actually it's the best idea around, and it's an excellent example of something that can be done about damage that cannot be rectified within the near future, and by people who do happen to know the full story!

7:52PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

@ Robert G.

CH4 and CO2 reflect outgoing sunlight which has reached the Earth's surface, causing it to get temporarily trapped in the atmosphere. Now sunlight, as you know, heats up the Earth's atmosphere. When sunlight gets trapped, what do you think happens then? Well it's obviously going to heat up the Earth even more. That is why it's called the Greenhouse Effect, because it works just like a greenhouse. "Great!", you say. "We won't need greenhouses anymore because the world will be like one gigantic greenhouse and we can grow our tomatoes and shrubs anywhere!" But that wouldn't be true. As the average global temperature rises, more areas of the world will become too hot and arid to be inhabitable and nothing will grow there. And icy areas will of course permanently melt, causing sea levels to rise, hence more floods. Not only that, but ice also aids in reflecting incoming sunlight onto the Earths surface, so the less ice, the more sunlight that enters, causing further temperature rise on Earth.

7:50PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

@ Robert G.

Rapid global warming is the issue here. The average temperature on Earth has increased by at least 2 degrees celsius in the last mere century, which may not sound like much, but it can cause the difference between ice melting or not melting, or water evaporating or not evaporating.
The two biggest causes of global warming are from two different gases:
1) Methane (CH4) which is emitted mostly from the stomachs of cows when they belch and from the bowels of people and most if not all animals.
2) Carbondioxide (CO2) which is emitted mostly from burning fossil fuels, ie Coal, Oil and Gas.
CH4 and CO2 reflect outgoing sunlight which has reached the Earth's surface, causing it to get temporarily trapped in the atmosphere. Now sunlight, as you know, heats up the Earth's atmosphere. When sunlight gets trapped, what do you think happens then? Well it's obviously going to heat up the Earth even more. That is why it's called the Greenhouse Effect, because it works just like a greenhouse. "Great!", you say. "We won't need greenhouses anymore because the world will be like one gigantic greenhouse and we can grow our tomatoes and shrubs anywhere!" But that wouldn't be true. As the average global temperature rises, more areas of the world will become too hot and arid to be inhabitable and nothing will grow there. And icy areas will of course permanently melt, causing sea levels to rise, hence more floods. Not only that, but ice also aids in reflecting incoming sunlight

7:47PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

@ Robert G.

As for the Dead Sea... Well it's been dead for about 3 million years now and gradually happened over a long period of time due to natural long scale climate change, nothing humans ever had to adapt to because we weren't even around then.
There has been an increase in tornado activity in The United States for the last 10 or so years however, which has caused many homes to be destroyed and severe casualties. You got the full story for why that is or looked at what can be done there? Please share your vast knowledge if you know so much about this subject. Maybe if they go to those churches and pray, if their churches and entire towns haven't been wiped out that is, God will give them their homes and lost loved ones back. That would probably work if it was the wrath of God that had caused those homes to be destroyed in the first place. But that's not the case I'm afraid.

7:46PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

@ Robert G.

Then you start to trail off about "Jooos" and "golden palaces" which have nothing to do with this topic what so ever. You're all over the place.
(By the way, not everyone gets rich from working hard. Hundreds of millions of people in the world work harder than you could probably dream of and many get payed no more than a bowl of rice each day for their entire existance which barely keeps them going. Ever heard of forced labour? Others get very rich because they did something unethical to get themselves there, or simply because they happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I don't mean stumbling across a case full of money, just in case you would suggest that... Some people were just born in the right country, for example).

7:42PM PDT on Sep 10, 2013

@ Robert G.

What the h*ll are you talking about? I mean I COULD be narrow minded and just say that you look and sound like a typical greedy oil-grabbler who's giving out false information about global warming just to promote the oil industry, but that would be unfair of me. Maybe you were just brain-washed by that 'scientist' you mentioned. As you should know, not all scientists tell the truth. Many get payed by rich oil companies to lie about the facts of global warming.
(And I know for a fact that oil companies have already patented all batteries so that no other energy industry can store their energy). It's all about greed.
You said Malcolm Roberts stated that CO2 is not the cause of global warming. Did he even give the slightest explanation of what he thinks or knows is the cause?

Then you start to trail off about "Jooos" and "golden palaces" which have nothing to do with this topic what so ever. You're all over the place.
(By the way, not everyone gets rich from working hard. Hundreds of millions of people in the world work harder than you could probably dream of and many get payed no more than a bowl of rice each day for their entire existance which barely keeps them going. Ever heard of forced labour? Others get very rich because they did something unethical to get themselves there, or simply because they happened to be in the right place at the right time, and I don't mean stumbling across a case full of money, just in case you would suggest that... Some p

5:37AM PDT on Jun 6, 2013

WOW!

There is another one!

10:01PM PDT on Jun 5, 2013

Did ANYONE go to the site of the Galileo Movement and listen to Malcolm Roberts? He is a scientist in his own right. The climate change movement is nothing more than a money grabbing organisation using wrong information. Of course there is a change as it is obvious from the Sahara Desert. There used to be a large inland lake many years ago but today it is dry.
From Malcolm Roberts obviously easy to understand description, the problem is NOT CO2 but there is some other cause to this change. Forget about the Carbon fiasco and get down to finding the real cause to the problem.
"No, we need to take the money from those who are better off because they have worked their butts off and give it to those who are too lazy to get off their butts. Send it to people like Mugabe so they can build golden palaces or to the Moslem Brotherhood so they can wipe out the Jooos."
Just as a point, those nasty Jooos have now discovered ways to eliminate cancer without invasive cutting up the human body. Not good for the pockets of certain folks so lets eliminate them Jooos while we are at it.

The Dead sea is much saltier than the ocean so they transfer ocean water in there to keep the level up to help their environment. Of course, those who refuse to look at what can be done will only ever see things that they want to see without getting the full story. Yes, it even happens in churches too as I have seen it myself. Any excuse to blame someone else instead of getting in and doing something one

5:23AM PDT on Jun 4, 2013

thanks for sharing

5:29AM PDT on Apr 29, 2013

Mark,
I am not sure where you are getting your information, but the carbon cycle acts much differently than you have indicated. First, most of the extra CO2 is absorbed by the oceans or plantlife (less than 50% remains in the atmosphere). Second, very little makes its way into the upper atmosphere, as CO2 is more dense than most atmospheric gases. Thirs, the lifetime is closer to seven years, due to the rapid cycling between air, ground, and water. Fourth, CO2 is not toxic, so it will not eventually kill you,

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