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By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

8/15/2014 (8 months ago)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

New study reveals true human impact on glaciers

A new study released on August 14 reports that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the dominant cause of glacial melting in the Alps and Andes mountains.

A glacier in the Alps, one of the largest in the world.

A glacier in the Alps, one of the largest in the world.

Highlights

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

8/15/2014 (8 months ago)

Published in Green

Keywords: Science, International


LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - The study, published in the journal Science, reveals that human emissions account for 69% of the glacier ice loss from 1991-2010, overtaking natural climate variations that have been the primary cause of the glacier retreats since the mid-19th century.

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Until the study, scientists have struggled to understand the full impact of human behavior on glaciers because these large masses of frozen ice take decades, or even centuries, to respond to rising temperatures and changes in the level of snow and rainfall.

This study relies on historical observations of glaciers around the world, combined with computer models to simulate all factors that could explain the retreat. It found that natural variations were not enough on their own, meaning that mad-made greenhouse gases are playing an increasingly greater role.

"This is more evidence of human influence on the climate," said lead author Ben Marzeion, of the University of Innsbruck in Austria.

These scientists estimated that human influences account for only 25% of the glaciers' total retreat since 1850-meaning that natural climate changes, such as temperature or rainfall levels, have long been the dominant factor.

Many glaciers increased in size during a period known as the Little Ice Age, which occurred from 1350-1850, that may have been caused by volcanic eruptions.

The head of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich, Michael Zemp, said that snowfall declined after 1850. There was also a rise in temperature in the 1890s due to the wider burning of coal and oil.

"The big majority of glaciers have been retreating over the past century," he said. "We even have an accelerated retreat in recent decades."

The study estimated that glacial melt has contributed roughly 5 inches to the sea level from 1851 to 2010. Without human influence, the sea level would still have risen 4 inches.

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