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Antarctic Glaciers Flowing Faster

"The Antarctic peninsula has experienced some of the fastest warming on Earth, nearly three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) over the last half-century," said Hamish Pritchard, the main author of the study, which confirms recent findings in Greenland.
by Staff Writers
London (AFP) Jun 05, 2007
Hundreds of glaciers in the Antarctic peninsula are flowing faster, adding to a rise in sea levels, British experts said on Tuesday as they pointed the finger of blame at global warming. In a study coincidentally released on the eve of the Group of Eight (G8) summit, the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) reported a 12-percent increase in the speed of over 300 glaciers monitored by satellite between 1993 and 2003.

It is already accepted that global warming is causing more snow to melt in the Antarctic summer and that coastal ice shelves are retreating.

The new study, published in the US-based Journal of Geophysical Research, found that the glaciers picked up speed as they headed towards the sea.

As the glaciers thinned, their meltwater acted as a lubricant between the ice and the underlying rock bed, reducing friction.

The work focussed on glaciers in a 1,300-kilometre (800-mile) tongue of land which juts out from Antarctic towards South America and is a closely-watched barometer of climate change.

"The Antarctic peninsula has experienced some of the fastest warming on Earth, nearly three degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) over the last half-century," said Hamish Pritchard, the main author of the study, which confirms recent findings in Greenland.

"Eighty-seven percent of its glaciers have been retreating during this period and now we see these glaciers are also speeding up... Understanding what's happening now gives us our best chance of predicting what's likely to happen in the future," he added.

In February, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicted that sea levels will rise by between 18 and 59 centimetres (7.2 and 23.2 inches) this century, mainly as a result of thermal expansion since water expands when it is heated.

This level could be amplified by runoff from melting polar icesheets, the IPCC said. It stressed, though, that the response of Antarctica, a vast continent where the bulk of the world's fresh water is locked up, was largely unknown.

"These new results give scientists a clearer picture about the way that climate warming can affect glaciers both in the Arctic and Antarctic," the BAS said in a press release.

"Furthermore, they pave the way for more reliable projections of future sea-level rise, and provide a better basis for policy decisions."

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is hosting the three-day G8 summit in Heiligendamm from Wednesday, will urge leaders to take an ambitious step forward on climate change, notably seeking a commitment to accept limits on the emission of greenhouse gases.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Related Links
British Antarctic Survey (BAS)
Beyond the Ice Age

Himalayan Glaciers Could Be Gone In 50 Years
Kathmandu (AFP) Jun 04, 2007
Himalayan glaciers are retreating fast and could disappear within the next 50 years, experts warned Monday at a conference in Nepal's capital looking at the regional effects of global warming. The melting ice fields have also caused a dramatic increase in the number and size of glacial lakes that now risk bursting and devastating mountain communities, delegates at the conference said.

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