A Great Glacier Melt

All of the glaciers in Glacier National Park in Montana will be gone in the next 50 to 70 years, according to researchers who have been measuring the rate that glaciers are melting around the world.

Those glaciers are melting faster than scientists had previously thought, according to the study by geologist Mark Meier, who presented his findings at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Boston on Tuesday.

"The glaciers are receding and they're becoming thinner, and you can see this," Meier said, placing the blame squarely on global warming.

The melting ice caps are contributing to rising sea levels that lead to beach erosion and more severe inland storms, he said. And rivers are jumping their banks more often as a result.

Meier and his research team at the University of Colorado at Boulder looked at characteristics of glaciers worldwide during the last 100 years, then compared the measurements to today's ice caps.

They found that mid-latitude glaciers -- those outside of Antarctica and Greenland -- had receded and become thinner.

In the last century, the largest glacier on Mount Kenya in Africa has lost 92 percent of its mass, and the glaciers in Russia's Caucasus Mountains have shrunk by half, Meier found. In 40 years, the Tien Shan Mountain range between China and Russia has lost 22 percent of its ice.

Though glaciers outside arctic regions account for only 6 percent of the world's ice, they contribute more heavily to sea-level changes.

In December 1997, leaders of 38 nations pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions, mainly carbon dioxide, by slightly more than 5 percent from 1990 levels.

Written by Alison Fitzgerald
©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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