Climate change is a complex problem that can be difficult to visualize, but a photographic “proof” published by the Geological Society of America makes climate science more accessible by showing the impact that changing temperatures over the last 100or so years have had on glaciers all over the world.
“We have unretouched photographic evidence of glaciers melting all around the globe,” says co-author Gregory Baker, a geologist at the University of Kansas. “These aren’t fancy computer models or satellite images where you’d have to make all kinds of corrections for the atmosphere. These are simply photos, some taken up to 100 years ago, and my co-authors went back and reacquired photos at many of these locations. So it’s just straightforward proof of large-scale ice loss around the globe.”
“The evidence is overwhelming: Earth is losing its ice. Much of this loss is irreversible and the result of human-caused climate change,” says Dr. Twila Moon, a glacier expert at the University of Colorado Boulder. Dr. Moon said this was a pattern repeated all over the world from the Antarctic Peninsular to Patagonia, Kilimanjaro, the Himalayas, Greenland and the Arctic.
When the glaciers melt, they release carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide and methane. These greenhouse gases accelerate global warming which in turnspeeds up icemeltingeven more. As melting glaciers continue to pour fresh water into the oceans, we face serious consequences of that process. “Among a number of significant effects, millions of people will be forced to leave their homes by rising seas, crucial sources of water will run dry and wildlife will lose sources of nutrients and shelter,” Dr. Moon adds.
Both the Arctic and Antarctic, as well as many other regions across the globe, are warming very fast. The Antarctic that we tend to think of as being one big chunk of ice, which has experienced an air temperature change close to 3°C, is losing its ice and turning green.
Climate models have stated that more than half of all the small glaciers in Switzerland will be run dry over the coming 25 years, while 70 percent of glaciers in Western Canada will run dry by 2100. “As scientists, we must make this reality clear and help to ensure that action is taken to minimize impacts globally,” says Dr. Moon.