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[greenyes] Global Warming - Glaciers Retreat
 "Glaciers, icefields in retreat

CHACALTAYA GLACIER, Bolivia: Up and down the icy spine of South America, the 
glaciers are melting, the white mantle of the Andes Mountains washing away 
at an ever faster rate.

"Look. You can see. Chacaltaya has split in two," scientist Edson Ramirez 
said as he led a visitor up toward the once-grand ice flow, predicting the 
glacier would be gone in seven to eight years. And the ice masses are 
disappearing far beyond Bolivia.
>From Alaska in the north, to Montana's Glacier National Park, to the great 
ice fields of wild Patagonia at this continent's southern tip, the "rivers 
of ice" that have marked landscapes from prehistory are liquefying, 
shrinking, retreating.
In the distance below, beneath drifting clouds, sprawled 3660m-high La Paz, 
a growing city that survives on the water running off the shoulders of these 
treeless peaks.
Chacaltaya, a frozen storehouse of such water, will be gone in seven to 
eight years, said Ramirez, a Bolivian glaciologist, or ice specialist.
"Some small glaciers like this have already disappeared," he said as melting 
icicles dripped on nearby rock, exposed for the first time in millennia.
"In the next 10 years, many more will."
In east Africa, the storied snows of Mount Kilimanjaro are vanishing. In the 
icebound Alps and Himalayas of Europe and Asia, the change has been 
stunning. From South America to south Asia, new glacial lakes threaten to 
overflow and drown villages below.
In the past few years, space satellites have helped measure the global 
trend, but scientists such as Rajendra K. Pachauri, a native of north India, 
have long seen what was happening on the ground.
"I know from observation," Pachauri told a reporter at an international 
climate conference in Argentina. "If you go to the Himalayan peaks, the rate 
at which the glaciers are retreating is alarming. And this is not an 
isolated example. I've seen photographs of Mount Kilimanjaro 50 years ago 
and now. The evidence is visible."
"Ample" evidence indicates that global warming is causing glaciers to 
retreat worldwide, reports the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a 
UN-sponsored network of climate scientists led by Pachauri.
Global temperatures rose about 0.6 degree C in the 20th century. French 
glaciologists working with Ramirez and other scientists at La Paz's San 
Andres University estimate that the Bolivian Andes are warming even faster, 
currently at a 0.3 degrees C per decade.
The warming will continue as long as "greenhouse gases," primarily carbon 
dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels, accumulate in the atmosphere, say 
the UN panel and other authoritative scientific organisations.
The Kyoto Protocol, an international agreement, mandates cutbacks in such 
emissions, but the reductions are small and the United States, the biggest 
emitter, is not a party, arguing that the mandates will set back the US 
As that pact takes effect February 16, the impact of climate change is 
already apparent.
An international study concluded in November that winter temperatures have 
risen as much as 4 degrees C over 50 years in the Arctic, where permafrost 
is thawing and sea ice is shrinking.
Pacific islands are losing land to encroaching seas, oceans expanding as 
they warm and as they receive runoff from the Greenland ice cap and other 
Those sources include at least one gushing new river of meltwater in western 
China, where thousands of Himalayan and other glaciers are shrinking.
In the Italian Alps, 10 per cent of the ice melted away in the European heat 
wave of 2003 and experts fear all will be gone in 20 to 30 years.
Such rapid runoff would do more than feed rising seas. It would end 
centuries of reliable flows through populated lands, jeopardising water 
supplies for human consumption, agriculture and electricity.
In Peru, endowed with vast Andean ice caps and glaciers, 70 per cent of the 
power comes from hydroelectric dams catching runoff, but officials fear much 
of it could be gone within a decade. Meanwhile, new mountainside lakes are 
bulging from the melt, threatening to break their banks and devastate nearby 


Although rising temperatures are an underlying factor, glaciologists find a 
complex cycle at work: A warming Pacific Ocean has created disruptive El 
Nino climate periods more frequently and powerfully, reducing precipitation, 
including snows to replenish glaciers.
Less snow also means glaciers that are less white, more gray, absorbing more 
heat. Newly exposed rock walls then act like an oven to further speed 
Whatever the regional wrinkles, "it's a global view," said Lonnie Thompson, 
one of the world's foremost glaciologists.
"What we see in the Andes is happening in Kilimanjaro and in the Himalayas. 
We've just been in south-east Alaska, and 1987 out of 2000 glaciers are 
retreating there," the Ohio State University scientist said in a telephone 
interview from Columbus.
"It's a very compelling story," he said. The glaciers - "water towers of the 
world" - are the most visible indicators that we are now in the first phase 
of global warming, Thompson said."



Peter Anderson, President
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Madison, WI 53705-4964
Ph: (608) 231-1100
Fax: (608) 233-0011
Cell: (608) 698-1314
eMail: anderson@no.address

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