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World's Largest Tropical Glacier Vanishing 462

Socguy wrote with a link to a CBC article about the rapidly disappearing Peruvian glacier known as the Quelccaya ice cap. The world's largest tropical glacier was a hot topic this past Thursday at the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Glaciologist Lonnie Thompson, and a team of Ohio state scientists, produced the stunning news that Quelccaya and similar formations are melting at a rate of some 60 metres per year. While polar ice caps have commanded attention in the discussion of global warming to date, these tropical caps are crucial to the well-being of ecosystems relying on an influx of mountain stream fresh water.
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World's Largest Tropical Glacier Vanishing

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 19, 2007 @12:00AM (#18064092)
    It makes great margaritas.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 19, 2007 @12:05AM (#18064108)
    Every time it's proven that global warming is happening, we have people who insist that it isn't. We're not even at the point where we're trying to determine whether or not humans are responsible.

    Again, we're just talking at the level of whether or not warming is happening, and it clearly is. The evidence is there, as is shown by the melting of glaciers in Peru and Greenland, a decade of warm winters in the northern US and Canada, ice-free passage through the Arctic Ocean, and so forth.

    I'm just wondering when those people who are standing so steadfast against reality will admit that they've been wrong.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 19, 2007 @12:14AM (#18064158)
      There is no global warming. And even if there were, there's no proof humans are causing it. The liberal press is full of wingnuts. And besides, it doesn't matter because we're all going to heaven soon, except for the heathens. And I know for a fact that the earth is flat and has been since god created it 6000 years ago. And SCO will win its lawsuit against IBM. Because god told me so. I can prove Intelligent Design is true, because I am a shining example of it. By the way, I have a new job next week. I will be the SysAdmin at your company.
      • No, it was 6007 years ago!

        I am of the Most Holy Order of the Earth is 6007 Years Old Club and thou must be one of thine swarthy heathens from that Earth is 6993 Years Old sect!

        Avast! I'm coming to DEMOCRATIZE thee!
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        Well at least you're quitting the job as the President's science adviser.
    • I'm just wondering when those people who are standing so steadfast against reality will admit that they've been wrong.

      I think the reason is that for most people, global warming means "global warming caused by human activity." That, of course, has yet to be proven. Alas, too many people take it for granted that global warming is caused by, and only by human activity and tend to insult anybody who doesn't agree with them.

      • by TapeCutter ( 624760 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @01:55AM (#18064680) Journal
        "That, of course, has yet to be proven."

        Depends on what your definition of "proven" is. The certainty in the attribution of the total of all significant +/- forcings is 90% or higher (ref: 2007 IPCC-SPM, figure SPM-2). The forcings attributed to humans outweighs all other forcings combined. ie: It is 90% certain that humas are responsible for greater than 50% of the total warming effect obserevd.

        Note that the IPCC is by it's nature a conservative document, as it should be when 2500 "scientists agree". This means that at very best there is a 10% chance humans are not the cause and as each day passes with no viable alternative explaination combined with data sets that continue to improve, the certainty will increase.

        Having said that, it is true the cause is not as certain as the observed warming itself but like all scientific concepts the idea will never be "proven", the best we can hope for is "virtually certain", eg: it is "virtually certain" the sun will rise in the morning but not "absolutely certain".
  • Second Life (Score:3, Funny)

    by realmolo ( 574068 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @12:07AM (#18064114)
    Second Life, the enormously popular Internet "virtual reality" world with over 60 zillion users, has PLENTY of tropical glaciers available. You can even build your own glacier, and earn REAL money selling the land to other Second Life players!

    Also, it's great if you are a furry.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 19, 2007 @12:11AM (#18064132)
    A number of himalaya glaciers are disappearing fast. Once they do, India and Western/Central China are in great danger. As it is, Gorges dam (and the 2 new hydroelectrics being planed) is mostly fed by Glaciers that may disappear in less than 50 years. Worse, this water is used for some of the most fertile land in both countries. That would leave both with far less capability to feed themselves. China will almost certainly pull a W approach and pick a fight with neighboring country with plenty of water. In general, there is only 1 country; Russia.
    • I've always wondered about this.
      If the glaciers are receding is it because of lower amounts of precipitation or is it from rain instead of snow?

      If it's less precipitation, then obviously there will be a water shortage, but so far I've seen no mention of less precipitation. If the same amount of water falls from the sky each year then the dam will simply have a steady supply of water instead of a shortage in winter and a rush in the spring.
      • by knorthern knight ( 513660 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @01:07AM (#18064434)
        Current/Past situation...
        - snow falls and accumulates into snowpack over the winter
        - snowpack melts during spring and summer, supplying water for irrigation during the growing season
        - snowpack doesn't melt completely during summer. This means there's a reserve that can handle a couple of dry years

        Future situation
        - rain falls during the winter and runs off to the sea
        - no water during the summer
        - a couple of dry winters makes things even worse

        Do you have any idea how huge a dam you'd need to hold water equivalant to the snow cover on a mountain range?
    • How many feet of sea level rise does the Himalayan glacial melt represent? We see stats about the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (5m) and Greenland (7m), but what about the Himalays? And what about the contribution from all the Andean glaciers, not just Peru's? Canada's got lots of land ice...

      Even the NASA data for flood elevations [] goes up to only 14m. We've got a lot more ice than that.
  • by Citizen of Earth ( 569446 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @12:17AM (#18064174)

    On the subject of Global Warming, allow me to be the first Canadian to say YES, YES, AWESOME, FUCK YEAH!

    • But shit! How will we keep the beer cold?
    • Amen, brother.

      Most of the company has been way below normal since mid-January.

      Global Warming: Bring it on.
    • Re:Global Warming (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Kenshin ( 43036 ) <kenshin&lunarworks,ca> on Monday February 19, 2007 @01:08AM (#18064440) Homepage
      Question: Do you really want the Americans moving HERE when it gets too hot?

      As long as they think it's snowing all year round here, we're mostly safe from them.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Ubergrendle ( 531719 )
        A few comments...

        Something like 80% of Canada's population lives within 100km of the border with the US. We're very happy with our neighbours thankyouverymuch. The elect idiot presidents sometimes, but they don't get to see our parliament up close and personal... thank goodness.

        Also, given that most of the northern US states are several hundred kilometers north of Ontario's Golden Horseshoe (where 1/3 of Canada's population lives, mainly around Toronto), they have lots of cold places to visit themselv
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      On the subject of Global Warming, allow me to be the first Canadian to say YES, YES, AWESOME, FUCK YEAH!
      Say, that's some nice climate you have there buddy ! And only a few hours tank drive away !
  • Anonymous cowards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by alshithead ( 981606 ) * on Monday February 19, 2007 @12:41AM (#18064284)
    Why is it that only anonymous cowards tend to disclaim global warming? ALL of the most recent observations of really important glaciers (read as heavily utilized) tend to point to the fact that most of them are disappearing at a scary rate. If you rely on glacier melt for fresh water, you are most probably year, 5 years, 25 years down the road, it doesn't matter. The time frame is debatable. The end result isn't.

    How can any educated person deny that we have seriously affected our world ecosystem? Species are going extinct everywhere, local climates are fluctuating wildly, and I sure as hell won't be buying any land that is close to our current sea level.

    We don't understand the world or even local climate science in enough depth. Our actions seem to be causing changes that are mostly unpredictable. Just because we can't categorically prove it doesn't mean that we aren't the cause. The predictions I see as most reasonable are actually some of the worst case scenarios.
    • by Vermifax ( 3687 )
      "How can any educated person deny that we have seriously affected our world ecosystem? "

      Because the majority agree that it is getting warmer, not that we did/are doing it.
    • by Vermifax ( 3687 )
      "Our actions seem to be causing changes that are mostly unpredictable."

      Read what you just typed.

    • by Shihar ( 153932 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @01:23AM (#18064510)
      For the same reason why people post as AC whenever it is on a topic where there is a strong majority opinion opposing them; they know that they are likely to get modded into hell and have their precious karma torn apart.

      One thing that does and always has moderate me is that when the group think really gets going it can result in comments that are certainly insightful/informative/whatever getting modded down because they are going against the consensus of the group. The point of the moderation system is not to sit around jerking each other off about how much you agree. The point of discussion is to explore different points of view, debate, pontificate, and in general act like intellectuals who are not afraid of dissidents from the group.

      I personally think that glaciers melting is a bad thing and that humans probably can take a hunk of the blame for it. That said, it pisses me off when I see completely reasonable arguments to the opposite getting modded down as flames, trolls, or (the slightly more reasonable) overrated. At the same time, we get a dozen one line "See!!!! When will people realize global warming is real!!!!" post modded up like that actually brings something intelligent to the conversation.

      This isn't a battle to mod the other sides opinion into oblivion. The point is to actually converse. People are posting as AC because the environment of conversation is completely broken when it comes to this topic. Utter crap that agrees with the majority opinion is getting modded up, and well thought out arguments against the majority opinion are getting slammed down. People shouldn't have to post AC to post a dissenting opinion.
    • I certainly believe that global warming is happening. I believe that global warming will be catastrophic. I believe that humans have influenced global warming, increasing its magnitude. I just don't believe that the difference between the world with humans and the world if humans never evolved (200 years from now) is really that different.

      Yes, there are examples like this article of increased temperature. Why the first week of January it was 60 outside here, setting record highs by huge amounts! Of cou
  • A bit odd (Score:5, Informative)

    by 93 Escort Wagon ( 326346 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @12:54AM (#18064346)
    This is odd on a couple counts. First, Lonnie Thompson has undoubtedly been aware for a couple decades that Quelccaya has been melting away (I used to work in a different university's ice core lab, and we used to collaborate with Lonnie). Second, based on both climate models and historical records I'm pretty sure that what we refer to as "global warming" shouldn't have a huge impact on tropical glaciers. During both glacial and interglacial periods the significant temperature changes were in subtropical and especially arctic areas - tropical areas saw very little change. What this means is: even if we'd never dumped tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, Quelccaya would still likely be melting away right now.

    This isn't meant as an argument in the debate over human-caused global warming; it's just an argument that Quelccaya is probably not good supporting evidence for either side.
    • by dbIII ( 701233 )
      It's another one to add to all of the rest, and a bit more dramatic than most although I think the glacier on Mt Kenya that took some effort climbing in the 1950s has actually gone by now.
    • Re:A bit odd (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Whiney Mac Fanboy ( 963289 ) * <> on Monday February 19, 2007 @01:30AM (#18064550) Homepage Journal
      I'm pretty sure that what we refer to as "global warming" shouldn't have a huge impact on tropical glaciers. During both glacial and interglacial periods the significant temperature changes were in subtropical and especially arctic areas - tropical areas saw very little change.

      You haven't thought that through.

      Even tho' tropical areas are likely to see a smaller temperature difference than a sub tropical or artic, they're also much more sensitive to said change. According to Real Climate's Tropical Glacier Retreat Page []:

      Generally speaking, lower glaciers which extend below the elevation where above-freezing air temperatures occur, are more sensitive to temperature. [Kaser and Osmaston 2002] calculate that such tropical glaciers are even more temperature-sensitive than midlatitude glaciers. A warming of 1 degree C is sufficient to raise the equilibrium line (below which net ablation occurs) by fully 300 meters. As we've already seen, warming is by no means unimportant to the 20th century retreat of the Lewis glacier (Mt. Kenya) in E. Africa. In other cases, the role of warming is yet more clear.
  • Let's see:

    1. climate change skeptic in self-righteous post promotes solar-cycle theory.
    2. climate change believer rapidly ripostes regarding selective fact picking.
    3. comments about big-oil funded research
    4. "AAAARGH - who cares what's causing it - let's fix it NOW!" i.e. unreasonable PANIC
    5. comments arguing for caution, measured response i.e. unreasonable calm
    6. some idiot bringing Microsoft in to this.
    7. inevitable (yet unamusing) "...PROFIT!" jokes
    8. inevitable (yet much deserved) Bush/US bashing.
    9. var
  • by ddoctor ( 977173 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @02:55AM (#18065052)
    The world seems to be of the opinion that the existence of global warming proves we are fucking up this planet... and it's non-existence would prove that we're fine... as if global warming is the ONLY environmental issue there is, and if we can solve that, we're fine. Jeebus!

    What about deforestation? Air quality? Mass extinctions? Loss of biodiversity? Water availability and quality? Overpopulation? Non-renewable resource shortages? Nuclear waste? Landfill?

    Anyone tasted the air in peak hour traffic in a major city? Isn't that enough to prompt some action?

    We don't have to prove the earth is warming for us to realise the damage we are doing! It's a RED HERRING! It's just one issue. What if we solve global warming... then what? Will our attitudes have changed? Will we still be pumping sewage in the ocean, burning coal and cutting down all the trees?

    Global Warming isn't a problem unto itself... its a symptom of our abuse of this planet. It's only a poster-boy issue. Both sides need to stop debating - it doesn't matter whether global warming is happening or not. It's OBVIOUS the damage we're doing... that should be enough to prompt us to fix it.

  • by Ace905 ( 163071 ) on Monday February 19, 2007 @03:14AM (#18065140) Homepage
    I'm so sick of all the left-wing zealots going crazy over news like this.

    Global Warming is a simple, natural phenomenon whereby the planet destroys a large percentage of it's population - including humanity, and then starts over again.

    Nothing to worry about.

    Too large a percentage? []

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents