Glaciers shrank 1 m a year in a decade: WMO


The 2011-2020 decade, although being the warmest on record, had the fewest deaths from extreme events, according to a World Meteorological Organization report released on Tuesday.

What are the major key points mentioned in the World Meteorological Organization report?

  • The decades from 2011 to 2020 witnessed a rise in economic losses due to extreme weather but also saw a drop in deaths due to the weather
  • This was also the start of the decade that depleted ozone hole visibly showed recovery 
  • Heatwaves caused the highest human casualties and tropical cyclones inflicted the most economic damage
  • While the climate finances nearly doubled, it has to be increased by 7fold by the Decade’s end.

What was the reason behind the reduced deaths due to the extreme weather?

  • Improved Early Warning Systems: Technological and infrastructure advancements have resulted in increasingly advanced early warning systems. These systems are capable of detecting and forecasting extreme weather events with increased precision, as well as providing timely alerts to affected populations.
  • Improved Forecasting: Meteorological research and technology advancements have resulted in more precise weather forecasting. This enables authorities to forecast extreme disasters, such as cyclones or heatwaves, allowing communities more time to prepare and evacuate if necessary.
  • Improved Disaster Management: Improved disaster management ideas and practices have made it possible to respond to extreme occurrences more effectively. This comprises well-organized evacuation plans, well-equipped emergency services, and community preparedness activities.
  • Localized Efforts (for example, in India): Improvements in cyclone forecasting in India are notably mentioned in the report. Localized efforts, like those in India, show how targeted improvements in area forecasting and response tactics can drastically reduce mortality.
  • Increased Preparedness and Awareness: The public and government have become more aware of the risks associated with extreme weather events throughout the years. This increased awareness has resulted in improved preparedness and a more proactive approach to reducing the effects of such occurrences.

What are the environmental damages seen in the Glaciers?

  • Glacier Thinning: Between 2011 and 2020, glaciers globally thinned at a rate of around 1 meter each year. This thinning is a sign of ice mass loss.
  • Increased Greenland and Antarctic ice loss: Greenland and Antarctica, in particular, experienced a considerable rise in ice loss from 2001 to 2010. According to the analysis, these places lost 38% more ice between 2011 and 2020.
  • The Effects of Sea Level Rise: Glacier melting and thinning contribute to rising sea levels. Increased ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica suggests a significant contribution to global sea-level rise, with worldwide ramifications for coastal locations.
  • Impact on Ecosystems: Glacial retreat and melting can have a negative impact on local ecosystems that rely on glacier-fed rivers and lakes. Water availability and temperature changes can have an impact on the flora and wildlife that have evolved in these settings.
  • Climate Change Contribution: The melting of glaciers is part of the bigger picture of climate change. The release of meltwater contributes to rising sea levels, and the reduction in glacier extent can alter regional climate patterns.
  • Glacial Lake Outburst Potential: As glaciers recede, they may leave behind glacial lakes that are held back by natural ice or moraine dams. The deterioration of these dams raises the risk of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFs), which can have catastrophic downstream repercussions on communities and infrastructure.

What are the causes of Glacier Melting?

  • Temperatures are rising: Global warming causes average temperatures to rise, owing mostly to an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from human activity. Warmer temperatures contribute to glacier melting because they exceed the freezing point of ice, causing it to melt.
  • The Albedo Effect: The albedo effect relates to a surface’s reflection. Ice and snow have a high albedo, which means they reflect a large part of the incoming solar energy. As glaciers melt and expose darker surfaces such as rock or water, the albedo lowers and more sunlight is absorbed, hastening the melting process even further.
  • Deposition of Black Carbon: Particles of black carbon can accumulate on glaciers as a result of incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass. Because these black particles absorb sunlight, localized warming and enhanced melt rates on the glacier surface occur.
  • Changes in Atmospheric Circulation: Regional climates can be influenced by changes in atmospheric circulation patterns. Some places experience altered precipitation patterns, resulting in changes in snowfall and glacier mass balance.
  • Ocean-Warming Potential: Warmer ocean temperatures can contribute to glacier melting, particularly those that end in the sea. Due to heated ocean temperatures, the interface between glaciers and the ocean, known as ice shelves, may see increased melting.

What is the way forward?

  • Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction: Policies to limit greenhouse gas emissions must be implemented and strengthened. Transitioning to renewable energy sources, improving energy efficiency, and encouraging sustainable practices across industries can all help to mitigate climate change.
  • Global Climate Treaties: Support and adhere to international climate change agreements and initiatives, such as the Paris Agreement. Encourage worldwide cooperation to meet emission reduction targets and limit global warming.
  • Adaptation Techniques: Create and implement adaptation methods to address the already existing effects of climate change. This covers initiatives for glacial melting-affected communities, such as better water resource management and disaster preparedness.
  • Transition to Renewable Energy: Accelerate the shift to renewable energy sources to lessen reliance on fossil fuels. Investing in renewable energy technologies like solar and wind power can help to create a more sustainable and low-carbon future.
  • Reforestation and conservation: Support conservation and reforestation projects to increase carbon sequestration. Healthy ecosystems, particularly forests, play an important role in carbon dioxide absorption and storage.