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Glaciers melting faster now than at any point in past 350 years

New study tracks changes over entire period from the “Little Ice Age” of 1650.

Tourists snap the 6km-wide Grey Glacier in southern Chile
Tourists snap the 6km-wide Grey Glacier in southern Chile
Image: PA Images/Suely Andreazzi

A STUDY WHICH has looked at the rate of melt in mountain glaciers in South America has found they are causing sea levels to rise faster now than at any stage since the “little Ice Age” of 1650.

The study, published in Nature Geoscience yesterday, is deemed to be significant because it uses a timescale that is much longer than usual studies of glacial melt. Previously, satellite images from the past 30 years or so have been studied. This study, carried out at Welsh, English and Swedish universities, looked back at the past 350 years.

The BBC spoke to one of the study authors, Professor Neil Glasser of Aberystwyth University, who said:

We knew that glaciers were much bigger during the Little Ice Age so we mapped the extent of the glaciers at that that time and calculated how much ice has been lost by the retreat and thinning of the glaciers.

The researchers found that 270 of the largest glaciers between Chile and Argentina have melted “10 to 100 times” faster in the past 30 years than they have during any period since 1650.

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