Glacial Retreat and Meltdown

Glaciers are dynamic formations, always changing and highly sensitive to the natural input from Earth's climate. Because of their dynamic nature, they are very useful "measuring sticks," used by clima-tologists and other scientists to identify changes in the environment. Worldwide glacial retreat and meltdown is one of the most telling markers of global warming. When Earth's surface temperature begins to rise, these massive rivers of ice begin to melt and shrink in response. This chapter focuses on these highly responsive systems. It first takes a look at glacial morphology, in other words, what they are, how they move, why they move, and why they form where they do. Next, it explores the distinct landforms and signatures upon the terrain that long-gone glaciers have left, enabling climatologists to piece together the climate history of an area. The chapter then examines how glaciers reflect climate change and what the current evidence is for global warming. In conclusion, it addresses the impacts of glacial retreat and how computer mod eling techniques are being used today to better understand the delicate balance between global warming and glacial retreat.

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