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climate change

Global Climate Change

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The Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets have been losing mass. Glaciers have continued to shrink almost worldwide. Spring snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere and Arctic sea ice extent have continued to decrease.

 

Ice sheets


The mass loss of the Greenland ice sheet has accelerated since 1992. The average rate of ice loss has increased from 34 billion tonnes per year over the period of 1992–2001 to 215 billion tonnes per year over the period of 2002-2011.

The average rate of ice loss from the Antarctic ice sheet has increased from 30 billion tonnes per year over the period of 1992-2001 to 147 billion tonnes per year over the period of 2002-2011. These losses are mainly from the northern Antarctic Peninsula and the Amundsen Sea sector of West Antarctica.

Distribution of ice loss for Antarctica and Greenland for the period of 2003-2012

Distribution of ice loss for Antarctica and Greenland for the period of 2003-2012
(Source: IPCC AR5)

 

Glaciers


Almost all glaciers worldwide have continued to shrink as revealed by the changes in glacier length, area, volume and mass. The average rate of ice loss from glaciers around the world was 226 billion tonnes per year over the period of 1971-2009, and 275 billion tonnes per year over the period of 1993-2009.

Melting of Muir Glacier

Melting of Muir Glacier, Alaska's Glacier Bay from 1941 (left) to 2004 (right). (Source: NASA)

 

Arctic sea ice


The annual mean Arctic sea ice extent decreased over the period of 1979-2012 with a rate of about 3.5 to 4.1% per decade (range of 0.45 to 0.51 million km2 per decade), and 9.4 to 13.6% per decade (range of 0.73 to 1.07 million km2 per decade) for the summer sea ice minimum. Over the past three decades, Arctic summer sea ice retreat was unprecedented in the last 1,450 years.

Arctic sea ice decrease

Arctic sea ice decrease from 1980 (left) to 2012 (right). (Source: NASA)

 

Snow cover


Snow cover extent has decreased in the Northern Hemisphere, especially in spring.

Average snow cover extent of Northern Hemisphere in spring (March-April).

Average snow cover extent of Northern Hemisphere in spring (March-April). (Source: IPCC AR5)