Global satellite data shows how much every glacier on Earth is melting due to climate change
Glaciers around the world are melting at an alarming rate.
Scientist have looked at recently declassified satellite data from the last twenty years and put together an exhaustive study on worldwide glacial decline.
They believe the world’s 220,000 mountain glaciers have been losing more than 298 billion metric tonnes of ice and snow per year since 2015.
The study, which was published in the scientific journal Nature this week, doesn’t stop there.
It says the annual rate of melting from 2015 to 2019 is 71 billion metric tonnes more than it was from 2000 to 2004.
While half the world’s ice loss is focused in the United States and Canada, the scientists say that almost all the world’s glaciers are melting. Even the ones in Tibet, which have been more resilient so far.
According to Romain Hugonnet, a glaciologist at ETH Zurich and the University of Toulouse in France who led the study, the decrease in ice ‘mirrors the global increase in temperature’ as a result of human-caused climate change.
Essentially, the continued burning of coal, oil and gas is heating up the planet and causing them all to melt.
Data to support the study came from a 20-year archive of images collected by Nasa’s Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) sensor aboard the Terra satellite.
‘We not only have the complete spatial coverage of all glaciers, but also repeat temporal sampling,’ Hugonnet said. Meaning the team had access to high-resolution 3D imagery from many different points in time.
Interestingly, while ice loss accelerated in the US and Canada over the study timeframe, it decelerated around Icelandic, Scandinavian and southeast Greenland glaciers between the early 2000s and late 2010s.
When they looked in more detail, the researchers found that regional climate conditions, specifically long-term fluctuations in precipitation and temperature, explained the difference.
So while North America entered a dry spell for the first decade of the 21st century, Scandinavian areas were unusually wet and cool.
‘We have those fluctuations that exist in some regions and can last for about a decade, sometimes,’ Hugonnet said.
‘This is also why we need such globally complete sets of observations, such as the one we provided.’
Even though the Icelandic rate was decreasing the glaciers there are still melting due to climate change.
Two years ago, Iceland marked the first ever ‘death’ of a glacier due to climate change.
From the looks of this data, it won’t be long before we’re holding funerals for many more.