“Record Glacier Thinning Means No Time to Waste on Agreeing New International Climate Regime,” said the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on Sunday.
That statement is based on the data of the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS), which “has been tracking the fate of glaciers for over a century. Continuous data series of annual mass balance, expressed as thickness change, are available for 30 reference glaciers since 1980.” Here’s the mean annual specific net balance:
“The Service calculates thickening and thinning of glaciers in terms of ‘water equivalent’. The estimates for the year 2006 indicate that further shrinking took place equal to around 1.4 metres [1400 mm] of water equivalent compared to losses of half a metre in 2005.”
Prof. Dr. Wilfried Haeberli, Director of the Service said:
“The latest figures are part of what appears to be an accelerating trend with no apparent end in sight…. This continues the trend in accelerated ice loss during the past two and a half decades.”
I know what you’re thinking: “Trend? No end in sight? But Dr. Haeberli, everybody knows the globe is cooling, and the apparent warming is just the urban heat island effect plus lousy temperature-recording stations.” As Dr. Haeberli might reply, if he had Jon Stewart’s sensibility, “Damn you, 30 reference glaciers!”
Why should we care about a bunch of melting glaciers? Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of UNEP (which funds WGMS) explains: