Europe

According to research conducted by the WWF in the European Alps since 1980, melting has accelerated; in the past two decades, glaciers there have decreased in size up to 20 percent. In the Alps of Switzerland, it has been reported that 84 of the 85 surveyed glaciers are retreating; only one is advancing. Others in Sweden and Norway are also rapidly retreating.

In one particular study in Norway, a group of research scientists from Swansea University, in the United Kingdom, launched the field study project Sea Level Rise from Ice in Svalbard (SLICES), designed to measure and calculate past and future sea-level rise. The team used aerial photographs of the glaciers in Norway and built highly detailed 3-D digital elevation computer models of the Svalbard glaciers.

In their analysis of Slakbreen Glacier, they were able to determine the glacier's surface had lowered 328 feet (100 m); and since 1961, the snout (front) had retreated 0.9 mile (1.4 km). Most of this retreat had occurred in the last 10 years. The group of researchers believes that global warming is a cause for concern to the general public. While small glaciers like these represent only 4 percent of the world's total land ice, they account for roughly 20 to 30 percent of 20th-century sea-level rise, and this melt has greatly increased since 1988.

Using high-tech computer modeling techniques, the SLICES team was able to forecast sea-level rise for the 21st century under different climate conditions. They view their work as critical to help those who live along the world's coastlines today. According to the World Meteorological Organization, the summer 2003 temperatures that triggered landslides, floods, and the formation of glacial lakes were some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded in the northern and central regions of Europe. Scientists warn that if these warming trends continue, the glaciers in the European Alps will virtually disappear over the next few decades.

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