Nearly all of the world’s glaciers, about 220,000, are melting at an accelerated pace, far faster than scientists have previously anticipated or measured, as a new study finds melt has “doubled over the past decades.”
A study published this week in the science journal Nature was one of the most wide-ranging overviews of the state of the world’s glaciers ever undertaken. The study authors utilized multiple NASA satellites looking at datasets dating back to the year 2000, CNN reported.
Scientists used high-resolution imagery taken from NASA’s Terra satellite from between 2000 and 2019, Reuters reported.
According to the results of the study, during the 20-year period, the world’s glaciers lost an average of 267 gigatons of ice per year. Put in perspective, one gigaton of ice would fill New York City’s Central Park and would stand approximately 1,119 feet in height.
In addition, the study found that the rate at which the ice melt of the world’s glaciers has been speeding up since 2015. From 2000 to 2004, the world’s glaciers lost an average of 227 gigatonnes of ice annually. After 2015, the rate had increased to an average of 298 gigatonnes per year. Comparing it in another way, the glaciers lost roughly 5,073 gigatonnes of mass from 2000 to 2019 – about 11,180,000,000,000,000 pounds. That’s approximately equal to 553,465,346 Eiffel Towers.
The amount of glacier melt accelerated from .36 meters per year in 2000 to .69 meters per year by 2019.
The observed amount of overall sea-level rise during the 20 years of the study data amounts to 21 percent, about a quarter-inch or 0.74 milliliters per year.
Measuring glaciers isn’t easy. It can be life-endangering work. Most of them are located in harsh environments, places where dry skin moisturizer and protecting your skin from the elements is essential, as the frigid air on exposed skin can cause frostbite in seconds, even endangering your teeth and gums. There is the risk of snow blindness. And then there is the danger of falling through a crevasse.
According to the study authors, throughout history, the study of measuring glacier melt or the mass of glacier loss is difficult for a variety of factors. The first difficulty lies in the fact that most glaciers lie in incredibly remote areas and/or locations that are inaccessible. As a result, only a few hundred of the over 200,000 glaciers around the world are routinely monitored.
The study omitted the ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, as glaciers tend to respond faster to climate change than the ice sheets. Further, scientists say, glacier melt is contributing more to sea-level rise than either individual ice sheet from Greenland and Antarctica.