October 25, 2009

Glaciers melting faster than originally thought, study finds

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Three heavily-studied glaciers in Alaska and Washington are shrinking rapidly, according to a U.S. Geological Survey study, reports Erika Bolstad of the Anchorage Daily News. Changes in the Wolverine Glacier and Gulkana Glaciers in Alaska and South Cascade Glacier in Washington state have been monitored for more than 50 years. Each has a different elevation and climate, allowing them to act as indicators for glaciers across North America. Glacial runoff provides necessary cooling and oxygen to mountain streams, and a reduction in the amount of runoff would affect water temperature and downstream ecosystems. Less runoff also means less drinking water in some areas: Anchorage gets their drinking water from Eklutna Glacier runoff. Although Anchorage’s water supply isn’t threatened at this point, that of millions of South Americans could be if glacial melting rates continue to increase.

– Emily Linroth

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