Ice Observations Of AlpiNe Glaciers

While alpine glaciers compose a relatively small component of the Earth's cryospheric system, a large proportion of the world's population relies on the melted water from these systems for drinking water and hydroelectric power. Understanding how alpine glaciers are likely to respond to future climatic changes is, therefore, a crucial component of sustainable planning and development. Direct ice observations from alpine glaciers and ice fields have a longer history than those in the more remote polar regions, largely because they are situated closer to population centers.

The longest records of glacial dynamics come from Europe, where records extend over 150 years. These records include glacial mass balance measurements (measurements of snow accumulation and melt), ice extent, and thickness. The large number of alpine glaciers existing on the mountain ranges of Africa, North America, South America, Europe, and Asia mean that individual monitoring of all glaciers is not feasible. As a result, the same advances in remote-sensing technology that have improved monitoring of polar ice masses have also been an asset to the collection of information about alpine glaciers and ice fields.

SEE ALSO: Glaciers, Retreating; Global Warming; Ice Ages; Ice Albedo Feedback; Earth's Climate History.

BIBLIOGRApHY. G.E. Fogg, A History of Antarctic Science (Cambridge University Press, 1992); M. Lepparanta, Physics of Ice-Covered Seas (Helsinki University. Press, 1998); W.F. Ruddiman, Earth's Climate: Past and Future (W.H. Freeman and Company, 2001); S. Solomon, et al., eds., Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (Cambridge University Press, 2007).

Tara Moran University of Calgary

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