Thursday, March 23, 2006

Glacial earthquakes' warn of global warming

By Steve Connor, Science Editor
Published: 24 March 2006
Dramatic new evidence has emerged of the speed of climate change in the polar regions which scientists fear is causing huge volumes of ice to melt far faster than predicted.

Scientists have recorded a significant and unexpected increase in the number of "glacial earthquakes" caused by the sudden movement of Manhattan-sized blocks of ice in Greenland.

A second study has found that higher temperatures caused by global warming could melt the Arctic and Antarctic ice sheets much sooner than previously thought, with a corresponding rise in sea levels.

Both studies - along with a series of findings from other scientists over the past year - point to a disturbing change in the polar climate which is causing the disappearance of glaciers, ice sheets and floating sea ice.

The rise in the number of glacial earthquakes over the past four years lends further weight to the idea that Greenland's glaciers and its ice sheet are beginning to move and melt on a scale not seen for perhaps thousands of years.

The annual number of glacial earthquakes recorded in Greenland between 1993 and 2002 was between six and 15. In 2003 seismologists recorded 20 glacial earthquakes. In 2004 they monitored 24 and for the first 10 months of 2005 they recorded 32.

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