Climate change fuels sharp increase in glacier lakes

The volume of lakes formed as glaciers worldwide melt due to climate change has jumped by 50 percent in 30 years, according to a new study based on satellite data.

“We have known that not all meltwater is making it into the oceans immediately,” lead author Dan Shugar, a geomorphologist and associate professor at the University of Calgary, said in a statement.

“But until now there were no data to estimate how much was being stored in lakes or groundwater.”

The findings, published Monday in Nature Climate Change, will help scientists and governments identify potential hazards to communities downstream of these often unstable lakes, he said.

They will also improve the accuracy of sea level rise estimates through better understanding of how — and how quickly — water shed by glaciers makes it to the sea.

Between 1994 and 2017, the world’s glaciers, especially in high-mountain regions, shed about 6.5 trillion tonnes in mass, according to earlier research.

“In the past 100 years, 35 percent of global sea-level rises came from glacier melting,” Anders Levermann, climate professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact, told AFP.

The other main sources of sea level rise are ice sheets and the expansion of ocean water as it warms. (AFP | Marlowe Hood)

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