People who have heard me talk about climate change and the need for scientific data to be better communicated to the general public, have also heard my position that global warming would not be such a hotly debated issue if people were aware of the many years of data that exist on the subject.
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) just issued a report on the status of North American glaciers based on 50 years of accumulated data. And the news is not good. The glaciers that were studied in Washington and Alaska have receded by 15% to as much as 50% and the shrinkage has been dramatically accelerating in the past 20 years.
"By having a 50-year record, you can look over what's going on, look over the meteorological, climatological record, and really get an idea of what's going on in the mountains," said Edward Josberger, a scientist with the USGS Washington Water Science Center in Tacoma, Wash., who has worked for a decade on the study. "Climate change effects are starting to become more and more noticeable," he added, "and this is one of the effects that's being displayed."
Shrinking glaciers have a direct effect on water runoff and overall drier conditions in the region and these can be felt on the population in the form of lower crop yields and reduced water supplies. Scientists are having to continually readjust computer projection models regarding the effects of climate change as more and more data indicates the effects are accelerating.
The USGS report concluded that, while changes in ocean conditions have provided explanations for the shrinking trend in the past, the latest acceleration suggests that rising temperatures are overwhelming those natural cycles.