Glaciers in Developing Countries Need Closer Monitoring

The Himalayas and Andes require better glacial trend monitoringA report from experts at the UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) and the World Glacier Monitoring Service (WGMS) said that there are serious “data gaps” in glacial monitoring throughout the developing world of Central Asia, South America, and the tropics – specifically in the Himalayas and Andes Mountains.

While monitoring glaciers throughout Europe and North America is “excellent” the report says, ice fields in developing regions of the world are “overlooked”.

The rapidly shrinking and thinning glaciers can put freshwater supplies at risk for hundreds of millions of people, said the report’s authors, Peter Gilruth and Wilfried Haeberli,

Data gaps exist in some vulnerable parts of the globe undermining the ability to provide precise early warning for countries and populations at risk.” 

The report was released at a meeting of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The principal conclusion from Gilruth and Haeberli is that greater investment is required for high-tech monitoring tools in Central Asia, South America, East Africa, and Papua New Guinea.

Data from the UNEP and WGMS show that the average rate of mountain glacier melt has doubled since 2000, with 2006 showing record losses from several sites.

It is important, given the rapid rate increase of glacier melt recorded thus far, that the most detailed monitoring be put in place for all the world’s glaciers.

Left unchecked, and in the absence of any successful negotiation in Copenhagen next year of a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, the globe lose all its glaciers by the end of this century.


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Thomas Schueneman
Thomas Schueneman
Tom is the founder and managing editor of and the PlanetWatch Group. His work appears in Triple Pundit, Slate, Cleantechnia, Planetsave, Earth911, and several other sustainability-focused publications. Tom is a member of the Society of Environmental Journalists.

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