Last month was the hottest February ever recorded. Attributed to human-caused global warming, this is a constant trend and consequences can be seen worldwide. In New Zealand, for instance, the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers have been melting so rapidly that it has become too dangerous for tourists to hike onto them, ending a tradition that dates back a century#. With continuing warm weather this year there are no signs of a turnaround, and scientists say it is another example of how global warming is impacting the environment.
According to data, they have lost 3 kilometres in length since the 1800s, making them 20 percent shorter.
The melting has accelerated in recent years. The glaciers slide and roll down the mountain at a rate of 4 metres each day, picking up rocks and debris along the way. The same phenomenon is being observed elsewhere on the planet.
“We know that glaciers around the world, including the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers, are responding to that warmer temperature and they’re retreating,” explained Heather Purdie, a scientist at the University of Canterbury. “We’ve also got these shorter time frames where regional weather can create some variability in that. But definitely the long-term picture, the overall large-scale retreat, if we’re thinking from the 1800s to now, is being driven by temperature change.”
According to a new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change, the estimated number of coastal dwellers in the US affected by rising sea levels is three times higher than previously projected. It says more than 13 million people could face flooding by the end of this century.
A scenario which is already underway: The Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctawa, a small Native American community in coastal Louisiana is to be resettled after losing nearly all its land.This is the first time in the United States that an entire community has had to be relocated because of rising sea levels.
Among the densely populated coastal areas in the US, Florida faces the greatest risk, with three counties facing the displacement of up to 80% of their population.
On 19th March the lights of worldwide iconic monuments and buildings like the Eiffel Tower, the Empire State Building and the Kremlin were switched off for five minutes to celebrate Earth Hour, an international event intended to raise awareness of climate change.
At the Paris climate talks, in December, governments agreed to limit global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.
World leaders will have to confirm their commitment to tackle global warming by signing the Paris climate agreement at a ceremony in April at the United Nations.