Global Warming Is Melting Glaciers Faster Than We Thought, Study Says

A recent study doesn't bode well for Earth's rising sea levels.

Visitors walk during a tour on the Myrdalsjokull Glacier in Katla Geopark.
Maja Hitij / Getty Images

A recent study doesn't bode well for Earth's rising sea levels.

A new study published in Nature on Monday suggests that the Earth’s glaciers are losing 369 billion tons of ice and snow each year, which is much faster than previously believed. The number is 18 percent faster than scientists calculated back in 2013 and is the most comprehensive measurement of glaciers around the world.

Per Fox News, the Earth’s glaciers are melting five times faster than they were in the 1960s and the study suggests its due to global warming and the addition of water to the planet’s seas — which are already rising.

“Over 30 years suddenly almost all regions started losing mass at the same time,” said lead author Michael Zemp, director of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich and lead author of the study.

“That’s clearly climate change if you look at the global picture.”

The study found that the glaciers were shrinking fastest in western Canada, the U.S. lower 48 states, the Caucasus region, central Europe, New Zealand, and near the tropics. Specifically, glaciers in these regions are losing more than one percent of their total mass annually.

“In these regions, at the current glacier loss rate, the glaciers will not survive the century.”

Zemp and his team used a combination of satellite and ground measurements to examine 19,000 glaciers, which is much more than previous studies. The data revealed that the only region examined in the study that isn’t experiencing glacier shrinkage is southwestern Asia, which Zemp claims is the result of local climate conditions.

Although melting glaciers are contributing to sea level rise, many other factors are as well — the biggest is warming oceans, which cause water to expand. Regardless, the recent study shows that glacier melting is much more of a problem than scientists thought and responsible for much more — approximately 25 to 30 percent — of the yearly rise in the world’s oceans.

Mark Serreze, director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado, who wasn’t involved with the study, claims that the study suggests “there’s much more to the story.”

“The influence of glaciers on sea level is bigger than we thought.”

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The rise of oceans poses a threat to coastal cities and heightens the risk of flooding due to storms.

In a separate study published in Environmental Research Letters on Monday, scientists revealed that the Arctic is warming 2.8 times faster than the other regions in the Northern Hemisphere. Not only that, the region overall is getting increasingly cloudy, humid, and wet.

Jason Box, a scientist for the Danish Meteorological Institute and lead author of the study, commented on the effects.

“It’s on steroids, it’s hyperactive.”