By Elliot Douglas
A glacier in New Zealand is believed to have lost so much ice over the last three years that it could provide drinking water for every resident of the country over the same period, a research institute announced Wednesday.
'The Path to Extinction'<p>Damage sustained by some glaciers between 2018 and 2019 may place them on the path to extinction, Lorrey explained.</p><p>Marine heatwaves and record temperatures impacted snow lines. Ash from the recent Australian bush fires also blanketed some of the ice, increasing the potential for more melting as the ash absorbs more solar radiation.</p><p>It could take 20 or 30 years of improvement in snow cover before scientists could "even start to consider whether the recent damage can be reversed to any degree," Lorrey said.</p>
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Douglas Broom
Rifugio Guide del Cervino is a bar and restaurant atop the Plateau Rosa, a glacial ridge in the Italian Alps. Or at least, it was. Climate change is moving it inexorably toward Switzerland as the glacier on which it sits steadily melts.
Mobile Border<p>The Rifugio has 40 guest beds and is a <a href="http://www.cerviniaicons.com/food/2018/06/rifugio-guide-del-cervino/" target="_blank">popular destination for climbers attempting the Breithorn</a> (4,164 meters, or 13,661 feet), neighbor to the Matterhorn on the Swiss border. But that's as close to Switzerland as Trucco wants his restaurant to get.</p><p>For now, COVID-19 restrictions mean the Rifugio is closed. <a href="https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-52701621" target="_blank">Italy is starting to lift its coronavirus lockdown</a>, but with bars among the businesses allowed to open, some people say <a href="https://www.skiresorts.net/skiing-social-distancing/" target="_blank">social distancing in ski resorts</a> may prove hard to implement.</p><p>In 2009, <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn16854-climate-changes-europes-borders-and-the-worlds/" target="_blank">Italy and Switzerland agreed their border should be mobile</a>, shifting to accommodate changes caused by glacial melting. Movements are monitored using GPS sensors allowing the <a href="https://glacierhub.org/2020/04/30/as-the-climate-shifts-a-border-moves/" target="_blank">border to be redrawn</a> as the ice moves.</p>
Sea Levels<p>Climate change is affecting other borders around the world. In the southern U.S., <a href="http://mississippiriverdelta.org/our-coastal-crisis/land-loss/" target="_blank">rising sea levels</a> and the canalization of the Mississippi river are the culprits. Since the 1930s, Louisiana has seen more than half a million hectares of its coastal territory disappear under the waves.</p><p>As Pulitzer Prize-winning author Elizabeth Kolbert put it in<a href="https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2019/04/01/louisianas-disappearing-coast" target="_blank"> a recent article for the New Yorker</a>: "If Delaware or Rhode Island had lost that much territory, the U.S. would have only forty-nine states. Every hour and a half, Louisiana sheds another football field's worth of land."</p><p>Shrinking glaciers are one of the most visible demonstrations of the effects of global warming. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the amount of ice lost since 1980 is equivalent to <a href="https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-change-glacier-mass-balance" target="_blank">removing a 24-meter (79-foot) slice off the top of each glacier</a>.</p><p><a href="http://climateandlife.columbia.edu/2017/05/08/the-glaciers-are-going-why-this-matters/" target="_blank">More than one-sixth of the world's population</a>, particularly in China, India and other Asian countries, depend on glaciers for drinking and irrigation water, according to scientists at Columbia University.</p><p>Global temperatures are estimated to have risen by at least 1°C (33.8 degrees F) <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/chapter/spm/" target="_blank">above pre-industrial levels</a>, and experts warn urgent action is needed to curb emissions. A rise above 1.5°C (34.7 degrees F) will cause <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/nature23878" target="_blank">glaciers in Asia</a>, for example, to shrink by two-thirds by the end of the century.</p>
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As the climate crisis takes hold, the effects are noticed most conspicuously at the extremes like the poles and the desert, where the harsh environments are drastically altered by a changing climate.
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Antarctica's Pine Island Glacier lost another large chunk of ice at the end of January. The section of ice that broke off the glacier on the western coast of Antarctica was roughly the size of Manhattan. It was 10 times smaller than the piece the same glacier sloughed in July 2015.
The Black and Bloom project aims to understand how dark particles and microorganisms living in the melt water on the surface of Greenland's ice sheet are amplifying its melt. These dark spots lower the albedo of the ice sheet and absorb more sun rays than pure ice does. With increased heat comes increased melt; with more melt comes more microorganisms, which then start the circle all over again.
@Glacier_Albedo that will be the biggest part of @jen_mccutcheon work in the next few years -and to characterize them at the molecular scale— Liane G. Benning (@Liane G. Benning)1468836245.0
"We want to get a handle on just how much of the darkness is due to microbes and how much to other physical factors," Martyn Tranter, a biogeochemist at the University of Bristol and the project's principal investigator, told Scientific American.
The team of scientists will spend the next six weeks observing the ice sheet. There will be several other expeditions over the next four years to measure and manipulate the ice surface, according to the project's website. Using the data collected during their expeditions, scientists will be able to predict how the ice sheet will change in the future with on-going climate change.
Black and Bloom field team being put in on the ice @jimmcquaid @tothepoles @Life_in_ice https://t.co/bUNJNwkTLR— Black and Bloom (@Black and Bloom)1468418805.0
Tranter said the work could also influence water supply predictions in areas such as the Himalayas where algae bloom-infected glaciers are common, Scientific American reported.
Ice melt in Greenland—which is losing an estimated 287 billion tons of ice every year—has already broken records this year, beginning almost two months early. The Danish Meteorological Institute reported 12 percent of the ice sheet was melting as of April 11. Greenland's melt season typically runs from June to September.
Early melting doesn't come as a surprise with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) reporting May's average temperatures were 0.93 C above the 1951-1980 average for the month and June was the warmest on record since 1895 in the U.S., with a monthly average temperature of 71.8 F in Lower 48 states, 3.3 F above normal.
The Black and Bloom project will tweet about its progress on Twitter.