Dr Qin Xiang and PhD student Jin Zizhen walking towards the Laohugou No. We finally know how fast the glaciers surrounding Mount Everest are melting—and it isn’t good at all. In this way Tans helps assess the state of the world's atmosphere. Meltwater gushes from an ice cap on the island of Nordaustlandet, in Norway's Svalbard archipelago. The high end of that projection—nearly three feet (a meter)—would be "an unmitigated disaster," according to Douglas. Sea water is evaporating constantly and is replaced by melting glacier water. We continue our tour. "That's out of date," Fagre says, stopping to catch his breath. The cold runoff from glaciers also affects downstream water temperatures. The giant Thwaites Glacier is one of the fastest-melting glaciers on the coast of Antarctica, and scientists are trying to find out why. The scenarios are disturbing even in wealthy countries like the Netherlands, with nearly half its landmass already at or below sea level. The engine running the conveyor belt is the density-driven thermohaline circulation ("thermo" for heat and "haline" for salt). We know their radiative properties," he says. The enhanced melting leading to lubrication of the glacier base has been observed to cause a small … Other causes may be important locally but are not significant on a global basis. According to a New Scientist report in 2019, visitors exiting a nearby train station could descend down three steps to reach the glacier in 1988. Eugene Brower, an Inupiat Eskimo and president of the Barrow Whaling Captains' Association, doesn't need fancy parts-per-million measurements of CO2 concentrations or long-term sea-level gauges to tell him that his world is changing. Share gift link below with your friends and family. The ramshackle conglomeration of weather-beaten houses along the seaside gravel road stands protected from fall storm surges by miles-long berms of gravel and mud that block views of migrating gray whales. Even relatively small storm surges in the past two decades have overwhelmed the system of dikes, levees, and pump stations that he manages, upgraded in the 1990s to forestall the Gulf of Mexico's relentless creep. Rapid melting of ice sheets in West Antarctica is already speeding up glaciers there, while scientists say Greenland is starting to melt faster than at any time in the past 12,000 years. This saline water loses heat to the air as it is carried to the far reaches of the North Atlantic. The gift link for this subscriber-only article has expired. They’re threatening every species of wildlife imaginable, forcing them to relocate as their habitats become unlivable. "It's happening as we speak," the 56-year-old Brower says as we drive around his home in Barrow, Alaska—the United States' northernmost city—on a late August day. Dust, climate change and air pollution are triple threat to water source for a billion people. The deep, cold water flows into the South Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans, eventually mixing again with warm water and rising back to the surface. The melting of the park's glaciers does have consequences, but for many people glacier retreat itself has … Global warming is speeding up melting and disrupting weather patterns that can bring too much or too little rain to the mountains. Arctic sea ice has thinned significantly over the past half century, and its extent has declined by about 10 percent in the past 30 years. "Normally by now the ice would be coming in," Brower says, scrunching up his eyes and scanning the blue horizon. Contributing to global sea level rise are thermal expansion of ocean water and melting glaciers, ice caps and ice sheets. The 20 sq km glacier, known as Laohugou No 12, has shrunk by about 7 per cent since measurements began, with melting accelerating in recent years, scientists say. Warm, salty water flows from the tropical Atlantic north toward the Pole in surface currents like the Gulf Stream. The danger is that rapid melting will, initially, increase water flows in the next few decades. Fagre predicts that within 30 years most if not all of the park's namesake glaciers will disappear. Glaciers could almost disappear in some mountain ranges by the end of the century. Specifically, since the industrial revolution, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions have raised temperatures, even higher in the poles, and as a result, glaciers are rapidly melting, calving off into the sea and retreating on land. He watched as CO2 level not only fluctuated seasonally, but also rose year after year. Researchers long ago predicted that the most visible impacts from a globally warmer world would occur first at high latitudes: rising air and sea temperatures, earlier snowmelt, later ice freeze-up, reductions in sea ice, thawing permafrost, more erosion, increases in storm intensity. I fall in step with Fagre and two other research scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey Global Change Research Program. "I don't think anybody down here looks at the sea-level-rise problem and puts their heads in the sand." The three largest glaciers in Greenland—which hold enough frozen water to lift global sea levels some 1.3 metres—could melt faster than even the … Thanks to … Cold War-era satellites bring bad news about melting glaciers around Everest. The fate of many other glaciers in the region is bleak, too. Photograph by Paul Nicklen, Nat Geo Image Collection, https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/big-thaw.html, Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, coasts are literally sinking by about three feet (a meter) a century. Climate change fuels sharp increase in glacier lakes, Massive chunk of Greenland's largest glacier bigger than Paris crashes into sea, Australia forecasts prolonged wildfire seasons, more droughts from climate change, Global warming to continue no matter what we do, study shows. There are no words, though, to describe how much, and how fast, the ice is changing. An unprecedented ‘mega-tsunami’ could be caused by a melting Alaska glacier, scientists have warned. In Washington State, the state with the largest area of glaciers in the contiguous United States, melting glaciers provide 1.8 trillion liters (470 billion gallons) of water each summer. This region is the source of 10 major river systems, including the Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus and Mekong, which are economic engines of the region. The concerned experts claim the catastrophic event could even … The 20 sq km glacier, known as Laohugou No. In the waters between 820 and 1,476 feet (250 and 450 meters) deep, CO2 levels are rising at nearly twice the rate as in the surface waters. Now all those impacts have been documented in Alaska. "If we don't have it, we don't need it," pronounces Daniel Fagre as we throw on our backpacks. Of even greater concern are the glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, which could push up sea levels by many metres in the coming centuries if the world stays on track to warm at least 3 deg C by the end of this century. Continual melt from glaciers contributes water to the ecosystem throughout dry months, creating perennial stream habitat and a water source for plants and animals. "It's like watching the Statue of Liberty melt.". Two two-and-a-half liter (about 26 quarts) flasks in the suitcase fill with ambient air. Some of this calving and glacial melt is a normal process that glaciers undergo during seasonal transitions from winter to summer, and even through the summer. But it is not just the distance that glaciers are retreating. Melting glaciers land two insect species on threatened list. Exactly how large that effect might be on the planet's health and respiratory system will continue to be a subject of great scientific and political debate—especially if the lines on the graph continue their upward trajectory. Glaciers around the world are melting — and for the first time, we can now directly attribute annual ice loss to climate change. (CNN) Deep channels discovered under the Antarctic's so-called "Doomsday glacier" may be allowing warm ocean water to melt the underside of … Down on the bayou, all of those predictions make Windell Curole shudder. In North Africa, an Algerian monk at Assekrem does the same. When temperatures rise and ice melts, more water flows to the seas from glaciers and ice caps, and ocean water warms and expands in volume. The seventh-generation Cajun and manager of the South Lafourche Levee District navigates his truck down an unpaved mound of dirt that separates civilization from inundation, dry land from a swampy horizon. We have been experiencing some problems with subscriber log-ins and apologise for the inconvenience caused. Switzerland has lost more than 500 glaciers since 1900. You have reached your limit of subscriber-only articles this month. A new study shows they are losing 335 billion tonnes of snow and ice each year, more than half of that in North America. In Europe, glaciers are also shrinking at shocking rates. Walking through the various labs filled with cylinders of standardized gas mixtures, absolute manometers, and gas chromatographs, Tans offers up a short history of atmospheric monitoring. The rising temperature of the Earth is the primary reason glaciers have started to melt more, and this climate change can be directly tied back to human activity. The fate of glaciers around the world Melting dangerously . Glaciers appear on almost every continent. A sinking coastline and a rising ocean combine to yield powerful effects. Himalayan glaciers melting because of high-altitude dust. Growing wildfire triggers evacuations at Glacier National Park. When President Taft created Glacier National Park in 1910, it was home to an estimated 150 glaciers. Rising sea level produces a cascade of effects. With his French-tinged lilt, Curole points to places where these bayous, swamps, and fishing villages portend a warmer world: his high school girlfriend's house partly submerged, a cemetery with water lapping against the white tombs, his grandfather's former hunting camp now afloat in a stand of skeleton oak snags. From the Arctic to Peru, from Switzerland to the equatorial glaciers of Man Jaya in Indonesia, massive ice fields, monstrous glaciers, and sea ice are disappearing, fast. Yellow bulldozers and graders patrol the coast like sentries. Until we resolve the issues, subscribers need not log in to access ST Digital articles. We're armed with crampons, ice axes, rope, GPS receivers, and bear spray to ward off grizzlies, and we're trudging toward Sperry Glacier in Glacier National Park, Montana. But the link between changing atmospheric chemistry and the changing oceans is indisputable, says Nicholas Bates, a principal investigator for the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study station, which monitors the temperature, chemical composition, and salinity of deep-ocean water in the Sargasso Sea southeast of the Bermuda Triangle. Graphic: Dramatic glacier melt. The largest glacier in the world is the Lambert-Fisher Glacier in Antarctica. In one example, glaciers in … Glaciers that terminate in a lake or the ocean also lose mass through iceberg calving. Meltwater feeding the rivers would then decline as the glaciers shrink. We analysed two years in which glaciers … Vulnerable to sea-level rise, Tuvalu, a small country in the South Pacific, has already begun formulating evacuation plans. Propelled mainly by prevailing winds and differences in water density, which changes with the temperature and salinity of the seawater, ocean currents are critical in cooling, warming, and watering the planet's terrestrial surfaces—and in transferring heat from the Equator to the Poles. He warns that too much change in ocean temperature and salinity could disrupt the North Atlantic thermohaline circulation enough to slow down or possibly halt the conveyor belt—causing drastic climate changes in time spans as short as a decade. All rights reserved. The first thing that caught Keeling's eye was how CO2 level rose and fell seasonally. Alaska’s Muir Glacier, like many Alaskan glaciers, has retreated and thinned dramatically since the 19th century. This article is now fully available for you, Please verify your e-mail to read this subscriber-only article in full. The ejected section covered about 110 sq km, or about a seventh the size of Singapore. Glaciers in Eastern and western Greenland have been melting faster than previously assumed, according to a new study from DTU Space and international partners. The future breakdown of the thermohaline circulation remains a disturbing, if remote, possibility. "We're the guinea pigs," he says, surveying his aqueous world from the relatively lofty vantage point of a 12-foot-high (3.7-meter) earthen berm. In the 1930s oil and gas companies began to dredge shipping and exploratory canals, tearing up the marshland buffers that helped dissipate tidal surges. The ice of a polar glacier is always below the freezing point from the surface to its base, although the surface snowpack may experience seasonal melting. The Inupiat language has words that describe many kinds of ice. 12 glacier, which has seen melting accelerating in recent years. Scientists point out that sea levels have risen and fallen substantially over Earth's 4.6-billion-year history. Data from the Bermuda monitoring programs show that CO2 levels at the ocean surface are rising at about the same rate as atmospheric CO2. If the West Antarctic ice sheet were to break up, which scientists consider very unlikely this century, it alone contains enough ice to raise sea level by nearly 20 feet (6 meters). Megacities where human populations have concentrated near coastal plains or river deltas—Shanghai, Bangkok, Jakarta, Tokyo, and New York—are at risk. While the rate of melting was slower this year, a big chunk of ice broke away from the Arctic's largest remaining ice shelf - 79N, or Nioghalvfjerdsfjorden - in north-east Greenland in June and July. That's because soon there may not be much sand left. Tans shows me a graph depicting levels of three key greenhouse gases—CO2, methane, and nitrous oxide—from the year 1000 to the present. A picture taken on July 24, 2020, showing a breaking segment of the largest Arctic ice shelf. Hence, it is normal for their melting process to occur. Some of it makes its way to the roof of the world — the Himalayas — where it warms glaciers and accelerates snowmelt, according to a new study by an international team of scientists. From the Arctic to Peru, from Switzerland to the equatorial glaciers of Man Jaya in Indonesia, massive ice fields, monstrous glaciers, and sea ice are disappearing, fast. They can read the article in full after signing up for a free account. The baleen, curiously, looks like palm fronds. In the past decade scientists have documented record-high average annual surface temperatures and have been observing other signs of change all over the planet: in the distribution of ice, and in the salinity, levels, and temperatures of the oceans. Just as arteries carry oxygenated blood from the heart to the extremities, and veins return blood to be replenished with oxygen, oceans provide life-sustaining circulation to the planet. Earth's glaciers are melting much faster than scientists thought. There’s nothing quite like historical photos of glaciers to show what a dynamic planet we live on. "This glacier used to be closer," Fagre declares as we crest a steep section, his glasses fogged from exertion. There, at the tip of Alaska, roughshod hunting shacks dot the spit of land that marks the dividing line between the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. In the late 1950s a researcher named Charles Keeling began measuring CO2 in the atmosphere above Hawaii's 13,679-foot (4,169-meter) Mauna Loa. They're doing what they've been doing for more than a decade: measuring how the park's storied glaciers are melting. The scientists check snow levels against stakes they’ve inserte… This particular pair of images shows the glacier’s continued retreat and thinning in the second half of the 20th century. Ivuniq is a pressure ridge. "It is inconceivable to me that the increase would not have a significant effect on climate.". And They’re Growing. Since 1961, the world has lost 10.6 trillion tons of ice and snow. The rapid thinning, acceleration and retreat of Helheim, Jakobshavns and Kangerdlugssuaq glaciers in Greenland, all in close association with one another, suggests a common triggering mechanism, such as enhanced surface melting due to regional climate warming or a change in forces at the glacier front. Now Louisiana is losing approximately 25 square miles (65 square kilometers) of wetlands every year, and the state is lobbying for federal money to help replace the upstream sediments that are the delta's lifeblood. Energy drilling removed vast quantities of subsurface liquid, which studies suggest increased the rate at which the land is sinking. In the fall and winter, when plants decay, they release greater quantities of CO2 through respiration and decay. A census of the world’s glacial lakes shows there are more than there used to be, and their water volume is growing. However, they are rapidly melting due to the warming climate. Accelerated melting increases river flows and heightens the risks of floods. Laohugou No 12, for instance, has lost 13m of ice, Dr Qin Xiang, the director at the monitoring station, told Reuters. Bruce Douglas, a coastal researcher at Florida International University, calculates that every inch (2.5 centimeters) of sea-level rise could result in eight feet (2.4 meters) of horizontal retreat of sandy beach shorelines due to erosion. Glaciers in China's Qilian mountains are disappearing at a shocking rate as global warming brings unpredictable change and raises the prospect of crippling, long-term water shortages. Melting glaciers don’t just have massive implications for humans. Scientists who assess the planet's health see indisputable evidence that Earth has been getting warmer, in some cases rapidly. But a log-in is still required for our PDFs. But a … SPH Digital News / Copyright © 2020 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Co. Regn. The three gases together help keep Earth, which would otherwise be an inhospitably cold orbiting rock, temperate by orchestrating an intricate dance between the radiation of heat from Earth back to space (cooling the planet) and the absorption of radiation in the atmosphere (trapping it near the surface and thus warming the planet). Most believe that human activity, in particular the burning of fossil fuels and the resulting buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, have influenced this warming trend. Never before have so many humans lived so close to the coasts: More than a hundred million people worldwide live within three feet (a meter) of mean sea level. All rights reserved. Although floating ice does not change sea level when it melts (any more than a glass of water will overflow when the ice cubes in it melt), scientists became concerned that the collapse could foreshadow the breakup of other ice shelves in Antarctica and allow increased glacial discharge into the sea from ice sheets on the continent. A trailside sign notes that since 1901, Sperry Glacier has shrunk from more than 800 acres (320 hectares) to 300 acres (120 hectares). Even without such a major event, the IPCC projected in its 2001 report that sea level will rise anywhere between 4 and 35 inches (10 and 89 centimeters) by the end of the century. The three lines on the graph follow almost identical patterns: basically flat until the mid-1800s, then all three move upward in a trend that turns even more sharply upward after 1950. A marker indicating the level of the Mer de Glace glacier in 1990 is seen in Chamonix on June 17, 2019. Melting Glaciers Are Filling Unstable Lakes. Robert Gagosian, president and director of the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, believes that oceans hold the key to potential dramatic shifts in the Earth's climate. He's only half joking. "And it shouldn't be doing that unless something fundamental has changed in this part of the ocean.". "We live in a place of almost land, almost water," says the 52-year-old Curole. Carbon dioxide level has climbed from about 315 parts per million (ppm) from Keeling's first readings in 1958 to more than 375 ppm today. The famed snows of Kilimanjaro have melted more than 80 percent since 1912. Everywhere on Earth ice is changing. Before leaving the Arctic, I drive to Point Barrow alone. Since the early 1900s, many glaciers around the world have been rapidly melting. Things have gotten bad enough that glaciers are practically on the edge of extinction. Keeling's vacillating seasonal curve became famous as a visual representation of the Earth "breathing.". That made sense since, during spring and summer, plants take in CO2 during photosynthesis and produce oxygen in the atmosphere. Sarri is the word for pack ice, tuvaqtaq is bottom-fast ice, and shore-fast ice is tuvaq. Last year, Greenland set a new record for ice loss, shedding the most mass from its giant ice sheet in any year since at least 1948. The coldness and high salinity together make the water more dense, and it sinks deep into the ocean. Glaciers in China's bleak Qilian mountains high on the Tibetan plateau are disappearing at an alarming rate. Since then the number has decreased to fewer than 30, and most of those remaining have shrunk in area by two-thirds. Today, the main reason glaciers have begun to melt is because of human activity. Spring freshwater ice breakup in the Northern Hemisphere now occurs nine days earlier than it did 150 years ago, and autumn freeze-up ten days later. Oceans, in effect, mimic some functions of the human circulatory system. "I've probably ordered more evacuations than any other person in the country," Curole says. Ice glaciers either break off into smaller icebergs and melt directly into the sea, or melt on land and form rivers that will empty into the sea. Arguably, the largest oceanic change ever measured in the era of modern instruments is in the declining salinity of the subpolar seas bordering the North Atlantic. This combination of effects has played the major role in raising average global sea level between four and eight inches (10 and 20 centimeters) in the past hundred years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). So far, the results have been positively chilling. Next to one shack someone has planted three eight-foot (2.4-meter) sticks of white driftwood in the sand, then crisscrossed their tops with whale baleen, a horny substance that whales of the same name use to filter life-sustaining plankton out of seawater. Mer de Glace, the longest glacier in France, has receded more than 2km up the mountain since the 19th century, with the pace of melting picking up in recent decades. The waters of the fjords of Svalbard—the Arctic archipelago between mainland Norway and the North Pole—are known to snap, crackle and pop with the sound of melting icebergs and glaciers. Although melting glaciers are the most visible indicators of climate change in the mountains, the entire mountain ecosystem is responding. Thermally, a temperate glacier is at a melting point throughout the year, from its surface to its base. Weather systems responsible for transporting moisture from the tropics to temperate regions in the Southern Hemisphere have been gradually … 198402868E. Piqaluyak is salt-free multiyear sea ice. Glaciers in the Garhwal Himalaya in India are retreating so fast that researchers believe that most central and eastern Himalayan glaciers could virtually disappear by 2035. Rising sea level, sinking land, eroding coasts, and temperamental storms are a fact of life for Curole. Billions of people, especially in Asia, rely on these vast storehouses of ice for drinking water, irrigation and hydropower. So there, on the North Slope of Alaska, stand three makeshift palm trees. "It's not a belief system; it's an observable scientific fact," Bates says. Tans and most other scientists believe that greenhouse gases are at the root of our changing climate. Rapid melting of glaciers from China to Greenland and Antarctica also increases sea levels, threatening low-lying coastlines globally. Around the world, collectors like these are monitoring the cocoon of gases that compose our atmosphere and permit life as we know it to persist. We head to the eroding beach and gaze out over open water. The projected economic and humanitarian impacts on low-lying, densely populated, and desperately poor countries like Bangladesh are potentially catastrophic. In one example, glaciers in China's bleak Qilian mountains high on the Tibetan plateau are disappearing at an alarming rate, raising the prospect of crippling, long-term water shortages, scientists say. 12, has shrunk by about 7 per cent since measurements began, with melting accelerating in recent years, scientists say. SINGAPORE - Across the globe, glaciers are in trouble. While scientists like Bates monitor changes in the oceans, others evaluate CO2 levels in the atmosphere. But the recent rate of global sea level rise has departed from the average rate of the past two to three thousand years and is rising more rapidly—about one-tenth of an inch a year. In the Nile Delta, where many of Egypt's crops are cultivated, widespread erosion and saltwater intrusion would be disastrous since the country contains little other arable land. 14-year-old girl killed by falling rocks in Glacier National Park. Glacier National Park's glaciers support the American way of life by contributing meltwater to irrigation for agriculture, to cold streams for wildlife, and to lakes for recreation. Furthermore, when salt water intrudes into freshwater aquifers, it threatens sources of drinking water and makes raising crops problematic. Across the mountains, glacier retreat was 50 per cent faster in 1990-2010 than it was from 1956 to 1990, data from the China Academy of Sciences shows. When the weekly collection is done, all the flasks are sent to Boulder, Colorado. Just as concerning is the overall loss of mass, or thickness. Thawing permafrost has caused the ground to subside more than 15 feet (4.6 meters) in parts of Alaska. Part of Antarctica's Larsen Ice Shelf broke apart in early 2002. By registering, you agree to our T&C and Privacy Policy. Glaciers gain mass through snowfall and lose mass through melting and sublimation (when water evaporates directly from solid ice). The ten-year-long World Ocean Circulation Experiment, launched in 1990, has helped researchers to better understand what is now called the ocean conveyor belt. They're found in the western United States, Alaska, the mountains of Europe and … "We have very significantly changed the atmospheric concentration of these gases. Rising sea level is not the only change Earth's oceans are undergoing. The UN climate panel said in a landmark 2019 report the high mountain glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, which provide water for about two billion people, are melting quickly and this could accelerate unless mankind makes deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. © 1996-2015 National Geographic Society, © 2015- Glaciers act as reservoirs of water that persist through summer. The once impenetrable permafrost that kept the foundation solid has bucked and heaved so much that walking through the school is almost like walking down the halls of an amusement park fun house. Melting Glaciers. The system of channels and levees along the Mississippi effectively stopped the millennia-old natural process of rebuilding the river delta with rich sediment deposits. Oceans are important sinks, or absorption centers, for carbon dioxide, and take up about a third of human-generated CO2. Get unlimited access to all stories at $0.99/month for the first 3 months. Surface water moves in to replace it. "This is what we did," says Tans, pointing to the parallel spikes. In southern Louisiana coasts are literally sinking by about three feet (a meter) a century, a process called subsidence. There are 580 steps down to the glacier by 2019. The Tibetan plateau and the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain range are part of what is known as the world's Third Pole because the huge ice fields contain the largest reserve of fresh water outside the polar regions. The current trend is consequential not only in coastal Louisiana but around the world. One of the leading hypotheses seeking to explain this behaviour is that increased submarine melting of tidewater glacier fronts is caused in part by increased oceanic heat transport along glacial fjords, destabilising the tidewater glaciers. Something else about the way the Earth was breathing attracted Keeling's attention. In Vestmannaeyjar, Iceland, a lighthouse attendant opens a large silver suitcase that looks like something out of a James Bond movie, telescopes out an attached 15-foot (4.5-meter) rod, and flips a switch, activating a computer that controls several motors, valves, and stopcocks. Using both repeat photography and tree-ring studies, scientists have documented that trees are growing faster, becoming taller and filling in the spaces in between trees. "It's now less than 250 acres (100 hectares).". Perhaps they are no more than an elaborate Inupiat joke, but these Arctic palms seem an enigmatic metaphor for the Earth's future. 2020 National Geographic Partners, LLC. Human activities are at the root of this phenomenon. "These gases are a climate-change driver," says Tans, poking his graph definitively with his index finger. Ocean temperatures are rising in all ocean basins and at much deeper depths than previously thought, say scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). By all accounts it has changed significantly in the past 150 years. Since the 1950s, average temperatures in the area have risen about 1.5 deg C, Dr Qin said, and with no sign of an end to warming, the outlook is grim for the 2,684 glaciers in the Qilian range. No. A primary source for this rise is indisputable: humans' prodigious burning of carbon-laden fossil fuels for their factories, homes, and cars. Glaciers are large sheets of snow and ice that are found on land all year long. Rapid melting of glaciers from China to Greenland and Antarctica also increases sea levels, threatening low-lying coastlines globally. In some places marvels of human engineering worsen effects from rising seas in a warming world. According to a recent paper published in the journal Nature Communications Earth and Environment, Greenland’s glaciers have shrunk so much that even if … The US state of Alaska is home to thousands of glaciers. Changes in water temperature and salinity, depending on how drastic they are, might have considerable effects on the ocean conveyor belt. You can read this subscriber-only article in full, All done! A continuation or acceleration of that trend has the potential to cause striking changes in the world's coastlines. In his fire chief's truck, Brower takes me to his family's traditional ice cellars, painstakingly dug into the permafrost, and points out how his stores of muktuk—whale skin and blubber recently began spoiling in the fall because melting water drips down to his food stores. Barrow looks like a coastal community under siege. "The changes observed here provide an early warning system for the rest of the planet," says Amanda Lynch, an Australian researcher who is the principal investigator on a project that works with Barrow's residents to help them incorporate scientific data into management decisions for the city's threatened infrastructure. There, Pieter Tans, a Dutch-born atmospheric scientist with NOAA's Climate Monitoring and Diagnostics Laboratory, oversees a slew of sensitive instruments that test the air in the flasks for its chemical composition. NASA's repeated laser altimeter readings show the edges of Greenland's ice sheet shrinking. The largest glacier in the 800km mountain chain on the arid north-eastern edge of the plateau has retreated about 450m the 1950s, when researchers set up China's first monitoring station to study it. For Brower, these words are the currency of hunters who must know and follow ice patterns to track bearded seals, walruses, and bowhead whales. Driving around Louisiana's Gulf Coast, Windell Curole can see the future, and it looks pretty wet. But it is in the deeper levels where Bates has observed even greater change. To see if a glacier is growing or shrinking, glaciologists check the condition of snow and ice at several locations on the glacier at the end of the melt season. It's like taking the global sea-level-rise problem and moving it along at fast-forward. Local projects like that might not do much good in the very long run, though, depending on the course of change elsewhere on the planet. That could trigger unrest as nations clash over water supplies. Our next stop is the old Bureau of Indian Affairs school building. "Things that normally happen in geologic time are happening during the span of a human lifetime," says Fagre.