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Glaciers Melting Faster Than We Thought

A new study shows that glaciers in Alaska are melting evenfaster than we thought. Anthony Arendt of the University ofAlaska used laser altimetry to measure the changes in volumeof 67 Alaskanglaciers over four decades. "Glaciers in Alaska seem to bethinning from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s," he says. Therate of thinning doubled between the mid-1990s and 2001.

"We know that the climate has had to change for that tohappen," Arendt says. "Whether or not these changes inclimate are due to human influences, that?s not for us tosay, but it?s possible that it is linked to a larger-scalechange in global climate caused by human activity."

A United Nations panel projects that sea levels will risebetween three inches and two-and-a-half feet during thiscentury. If glaciers are melting faster than expected, thatamount will be even higher. The study found that the Alaskanglaciers are melting almost twice as fast as the Greenlandice sheet.

The University of Alaska team flew over 67 glaciers andcompared their readings to measurements taken by the U.S.Geological Survey in the 1950s. They found that the glaciershad lost, on average, more than a foot and a half a year inheight. Columbia Glacier in Prince William Sound has beenshrinking about 23 feet a year.

Alaskans aren?t surprised ? they know the weather?s gettingwarmer. At the Chugach National Forest's visitor center,there?s a lake where there used to be icebergs, and the lakeitself is receding rapidly. ?They made a really wildassessment that it would take until 2020 to recede out ofsight,? says Dave Blanchet of the Forest Service, but it?shappening already. Portage Glacier used to be a majortourist attraction, but since 1993, it can no longer be seenfrom the visitors center.

Forest Service spokeswoman Mona Spargo says, ?It?sdisappointing when you go there and you say, ?Oh man,remember what it used to be like???

Stan Stephens, a retired cruise ship captain, says, ?It?samazing how much of [the glacier] has dropped off the edgeof the mountain. You see the amount of ice that comes offevery single day and blocks the traffic lanes.?What does global warming mean for ourfuture? Read ?TheComing Global Superstorm,? now only $9.95 for a hardcoversigned by Whitley Strieber,click here.

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