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Melting glaciers caused by

by Shannan Bolt (2020-09-08)

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Melting glaciers caused by climate change are responsible for a 48 per cent surge in the amount of water trapped in unstable glacial lakes over 30 years, scientists have discovered.  

Researchers tracked glacial lake volume since 1990 using more than a quarter of a million NASA satellite images to create a 'near-global database' of glacial lakes, 

The study also reveals the number of lakes and the total area covered by lakes has increased by 53 and 51 per cent, respectively. 

Researchers hope that by understanding how water from glaciers ends up in these lakes they can predict when and how it will reach the ocean, its final destination. 

Currently, the amount of water trapped in glacial lakes, 156.5 cubic km, would cause a sea level rise of 0.43 mm if it was released into the oceans, the study reveals.    

Pictured: a map compiled from 254,795 satellite images of glacial lakes.

This map shows the size and location of glacial lakes according to the latest study. Each dot represents a single glacial lake. Yellow dots are larger than green, which are larger than blue dots 

Satellite images show the growth of glacial lakes over the last three decades.

Imja Lake in Nepal has increased its volume enormously since 1989 (pictured)

'We have known that not all meltwater is making it into the oceans immediately,' lead author Dan Shugar, a geomorphologist at the University of Calgary, said. 

'But until now there were no data to estimate how much was being stored in lakes or groundwater.'

The findings, published Monday in , will help identify potential hazards to communities downstream of these often unstable lakes, he said.

They will also improve the accuracy of sea level rise estimates through better understanding of how quickly water from glaciers makes it to the sea.


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Between 1994 and 2017, the world's glaciers, especially in high-mountain regions, shed about 6.5 trillion tonnes in mass, according to earlier research.

'In the past 100 years, 35 per cent of global sea-level rises came from glacier melting,' Anders Levermann, climate professor at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Change Impact, told AFP.

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Pictured: a before and after shot of Nepal's Imja Lake from 1989 and 2019.

It is one of many glacial lakes to have increased in volume as ice melts in the word's mountains 

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