Glaciers are melting faster, losing 31% more snow and ice per year than they did 15 years earlier, according to three-dimensional satellite measurements of all the world’s mountain glaciers. Scientists blame human-caused climate change. Using 20 years of recently declassified satellite data, scientists calculated that the world’s 220,000 mountain glaciers are losing more than 328 billion tons of ice and snow per year since 2015, according to a study published in the journal Nature Wednesday. The study is the first to use this 3D satellite imagery to examine all of Earth's glaciers not connected to ice sheets in Greenland and Antarctica, the AP reports. The annual melt rate from 2015 to 2019 is 78 billion more tons a year than it was from 2000 to 2004.
Global thinning rates, different than volume of water lost, doubled in the last 20 years and "that’s enormous," says Romain Hugonnet, a glaciologist at ETH Zurich and the University of Toulouse in France who led the study. Half the world’s glacial loss is coming from the United States and Canada. Alaska’s melt rates are "among the highest on the planet," with the Columbia glacier retreating about 115 feet a year, Hugonnet says. Almost all the world’s glaciers are melting, even ones in Tibet that used to be stable, with melt rates accelerating around the world, the study found. The near-uniform melting "mirrors the global increase in temperature" and is from the burning of coal, oil, and gas, Hugonnet says. (In 2019, Iceland mourned a glacier lost to climate change.)