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Northwest glaciers melting: U.N. Report

Walter Siegmund
Mount Rainier Liberty Cap (center skyline), Liberty Cap Glacier descending to ice cliff, Mowich Face (left of ice cliff), Russell Glacier (below, middle distance)

Glaciers around the world are losing mass at varying rates, according to a new report from the United Nations Environment Program. Glaciers in Patagonia are shrinking fastest, followed by Alaska, then the Pacific Northwest and Canada.

Glaciers in Asia - including the Hindi Kush in the Himalayas -- are losing ice more slowly.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • In dry regions of Central Asia and parts of South America, melting glaciers will have more impact on water supplies than in Europe or in parts of Asia.
  • Many glaciers may take centuries to fully disappear but many low-lying, smaller glaciers, which are often crucial water sources in drylands,  are melting much faster.

The report found that, while the overall trend is down, more snowfall in some places has increased the mass and in some cases the size of glaciers, including in Norway, New Zealand' and parts of the South America.
The report -- released in time for the U.N. climate summit in Cancun, Mexico -- also looks at possible ways of adapting to receding glaciers, including the idea of tapping and storing water from lakes formed by glacier melt. It concludes that would likely be too expensive and difficult to do in the remote and often-poor regions most threatened by loss of glaciers.

Link to the report: