Glaciers: Going, going, gone !
Global Warming is melting glaciers in every region of the world, putting millions of people at risk from floods, droughts and lack of drinking water. Glaciers are ancient rivers of compressed snow that creep through the landscape, shaping the planet’s surface. They are the Earth’s largest freshwater reservoir, collectively covering an area the size of South America. Glaciers have been retreating worldwide since the end of the Little Ice Age (around 1850), but in recent decades glaciers have begun melting at rates that cannot be explained by historical trends.
Although only a small fraction of the planet’s permanent ice is stored outside of Greenland and Antarctica, these glaciers are extremely important because they respond rapidly to climate change and their loss directly affects human populations and ecosystems. Continued, widespread melting of glaciers during the coming century will lead to floods, water shortages for millions of people, and sea level rise threatening and destroying coastal communities and habitats.
Glaciers and stream, Cogne Valley. Grand Paradiso National Park. Italy.
World Meteorological Organization reports that summer 2003 temperatures, which triggered floods, landslides, and the rapid formation of glacial lakes, were the hottest ever recorded in northern and central Europe; if current trends continue, the European Alps will lose major parts of their glacier coverage within the next few decades.