Polar Ice & Glaciers
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Polar Ice & Glaciers Losing Ice Mass Glaciers Shrinking News

Polar Ice & Glaciers

The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have decreased in mass, losing billions of tonnes of ice per year.

In virtually all of the mountain ranges of the world glaciers are in retreat.

On this page I look at some of the evidence that proves these effects of climate change.

The Ice Sheets are Losing Mass

Antarctica is losing ice mass - i.e. melting - at an average rate of about 150 billion tons per year. The chart shows satellite data from 2002 to the present.

Greenland is losing about 270 billion tons per year. You can see the corresponding chart for Greenland here. On that page you can also get access to NASA ice sheet data.

Between them the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets store about 2/3 of all the fresh water on Earth. Warming of these ice sheets is therefore making a major contribution to sea level rise.

Glaciers are Shrinking

The World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) collects standardized observations on changes in mass, volume, area and length of glaciers with time (glacier fluctuations), as well as statistical information on the distribution of perennial surface ice in space (glacier inventories).

The WGMS tell us that "Glaciologists assess the state of a glacier by measuring its annual mass balance as the combined results of snow accumulation (mass gain) and melt (mass loss) during a given year. The mass balance reflects the atmospheric conditions over a (hydrological) year and, if measured over a long period and displayed in a cumulative way, trends in mass balance are an indicator of climate change. Seasonal melt contributes to runoff and the annual balance (i.e. the net change of glacier mass) contributes to sea level change."

You will find a list of their reference glaciers here.

Polar Ice & Glaciers News

April 2023: UN reports 'off the charts' melting of glaciers

The UN reported that the world's glaciers melted at a dramatic speed in 2022 and saving them is effectively a lost cause.

They were reporting on the the WMO's annual climate report.

The WMO reported that ""Antarctic sea ice fell to its lowest extent on record and the melting of some European glaciers was, literally, off the charts."

April 2023: Losing Our Glaciers

This is the annual snowline survey, an annual charter flight run by climate research institute Niwa that attempts to capture the state of New Zealand’s glaciers before winter sets in.

"Some of these scientists have been monitoring these glaciers for decades, returning every year to take their pictures. They know each by name, and have their personal favourites. Some of the glaciers they used to record have vanished over the last decade."

The rapid loss is not surprising as 2022 was New Zealand’s hottest year on record, and that's the second year in a row that record’s been broken.