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How do glaciers help us learn about Climate Change?

There is much more to glaciers than being simply big slabs of ice moving extremely slowly down a mountain side.  They are a gateway to understanding how climate change and global warming is altering our world.

Dr. Oliver MacDonald (Doctor of Glaciology and Climate Change) outlines below how we can gain an insight into the important role studying glaciers has on understanding Climate Change.

The long-term data record is an important concept in Geography. Systematic measurement of sea surface temperature began over 160 years ago, and these data have driven understanding of ocean currents and climatic impact. Air temperature measurement began even earlier – for example data series stretch back to 1725 from Padova, Italy, and 1772 for Central England.

The long term record of data from glaciated drainage basins in Alpine environments tells us about  water quantity, water quality and the size and extent of glaciers. In Europe, glaciers have retreated significantly since the Little Ice Age, and markedly so in recent decades. Water resources are under pressure.

The Alpine Glacier Project has been collecting data from two Swiss glaciers since 1974. The project, now a charity, has worked with students from all over the world, including the UK. This year is our 44th consecutive field season and we’ll be adding to our measurements of water quality, water chemistry and climate. Our work shows clearly the impact of accelerating climatic change on glaciated drainage basins.

We’ll also be using drone technology to survey the glacier surface. You can find out more about it by clicking here.

If you have any questions please do not hesitate to leave them in the comment box below.

alpine glacier projectclimate changeenvironmentGeographyGlaciersglobal warminglocationMountainsnaturePhysical Geographyresearchswitzerland

darlandgeography • May 15, 2018

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