Friday, July 2, 2010

Oceania's last glaciers have just a few years left, scientist says

The last glacier remnants in Indonesia are tiny -- just a square mile total -- lying 16,500 feet above sea level on the equatorial island of New Guinea. They're largely a mystery to science because of the region's inaccessibility and violent political unrest. An Ohio State University glaciologist who recently made the first scientific expedition to the Puncak Jaya ice cap in almost 40 years found it in extremely rapid retreat. "These glaciers are dying," Lonnie Thompson told The Associated Press. "Before I was thinking they had a few decades, but now I'd say we're looking at years."

For [Thompson], the Papuan glaciers, because they lie along the fringe of the world's warmest ocean and could provide clues about regional weather patterns, were an unexplored "missing link."
It is this region that generates El Nino disturbances and influences climate from India's monsoons to the Amazon's droughts. As such, it is one of the only "archives" about the story of the equatorial phenomenon. ... It also could point to what lies ahead for billions of people in Asia.

Thompson says global warming has already destroyed much evidence in the form of dust deposits captured within the glacier that have been lost to melting.

Click this link for more photos of the Puncak Jaya ice cap from Thompson's expedition and this one for the expedition blog posts. Thompson has also researched Alaska glaciers.

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