A new study has found that the world’s glaciers are melting up to 100 times faster than any time in the past 350 years. The findings, based on the study of Patagonia, South America, have worrying implications for millions of people who rely on the slow moving bodies of ice for fresh water, reports the Daily Mail.
The amount of ice lost from the 270 Patagonian glaciers is equivalent to filling Windermere in the Lake District more than 1,700 times.
The researchers, led by Prof Neil Glasser of Aberystwyth University, analysed the rocky debris left by glaciers on the sides of mountains to work out how big they once were and how much ice has vanished.
Since the Little Ice Age ended in Patagonia in the middle of the 17th century, the 270 glaciers that now cover an area of at least 0.4 square miles have lost 145 cubic miles of ice.
Over the same period temperatures have gone up by around 1.4 C in the region, said the scientists.
“The glaciers have lost a lot less ice up until 30 years ago than had been thought,” said Glasser.
“The real killer is that in the last 30 years the rate of loss has gone up 100 times above the long term average. It’s scary,” he said.
The professor, who carried out the study alongside researchers from the University of Exeter and Stockholm University, said the South American glaciers were at a similar latitude in the southern hemisphere as the Alps are in the northern hemisphere.
The findings are reported in the journal Nature Geoscience.