Three organisations warn of a warming planet

The world is rapidly losing its glaciers and sea ice, according to three separate reports from UNEP, WWF and NASA

The World Glacier Monitoring Service, supported by the UN Environment Programme, has released preliminary figures on glacier loss. Average ice loss from 30 glaciers around the world more than doubled between 2004/5 and 2005/6 – the highest level since monitoring began in 1980. Only one glacier was found to have increased in size.

Director of the service Professor Wilfried Haeberli said: “The latest figures are part of what appears to be an accelerating trend with no apparent end in sight.

Meanwhile a WWF expedition has estimated that central African glaciers, which partly feed the Nile, have halved in area since the 1950s and by 75% in the past century. The Rwenzori mountains, on the border of Uganda and Congo, have the only permanently snow-covered peaks in Africa other than Mount Kenya and Mount Kilimanjaro. At the current rate of loss, the Rwenzori glaciers are expected to disappear within three decades.

NASA has also revealed that the Arctic is losing its older ice floes. Sea ice created more than two years ago now accounts for around 30% of all Arctic ice. In the mid-1980s, approximately 60% of the ice was older than two years.

The area of Arctic summer ice coverage is also declining. Although the maximum extent grew to 15 million km2 this winter, 4% more than last year, this growth is thought to be due to recent weather conditions. It masks a further declines in perennial sea ice. NASA expects to see further declines in ice coverage this summer because the less compacted and saltier new ice will melt more easily than the thicker, older ice.

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