Last month, the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) came out with its bi-yearly mass balance estimate. Basically, this is a measure of the amount of melt. As expected, glaciers continue to lose mass:
And on a cumulative basis:
Although a little dated (2008), the WGMS also publishes an excellent report called “Global Glacier Changes: facts and figures“. And to get a better sense of what glacier retreat actually looks like check out James Balog’s Ted Talk on his glacier time lapse photo project (which later morphed into the Emmy Award winning documentary Chasing Ice):
Another excellent up-to-date source on glacier developments is the blog “From a Glacier’s Perspective” written by the leading glaciologist Mauri Pelto. Like most climate scientists, Pelto’s analysis is measured and considered; for example, he emphasises that not all glaciers are retreating since each glacier’s situation is unique. Moreover, some glaciers retreat and then find a new equilibrium.
But while this is true for individual glaciers (so providing fodder for climate skeptic web sites), it is not true in aggregate. From Pelto’s contribution to the alpine glacier section in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society’s annual State of the Climate publication:
The declining mass balance trend during a period of retreat indicates alpine glaciers are not approaching equilibrium and retreat will continue to be the dominant terminus response.
It is difficult not to get a little depressed over the fate of the planet when you see images of glacier disintegration such as these (Careser glacier in Italy, from the same BAMS report).
But don’t get depressed, get angry! Lobby your local politicians! Climate change consistently comes at the bottom of public concerns. It should be at the top.