Warnings from melting glacier

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Warnings from melting glacier

The author is the political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.

A glacier is a gem created by nature over thousands of years. The ice layer is developed when the snow accumulates over time faster than it melts. The continental glaciers covering Antarctica and Greenland are 2,000 meters (1.24 miles) thick on average. That’s almost four times the height of the123-story Lotte Tower in Jamsil, southern Seoul, standing 555 meters tall. The clear blue ice seen through the cracks of the mountain glacier is mysterious.

Glaciers, meaning “ice river,” flow several meters every day because of gravity and are a treasure chest of freshwater resources. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, 68 percent of the freshwater on Earth is found in glaciers — 30 percent exists in the form of ground water, and only 0.3 percent is found as surface water in lakes, rivers and swamps. Countries near the mountains of the Alps and Himalayas depend on the glacier water from perennial snow for their drinking water supply.

It is widely known that glaciers are rapidly melting due to global warming. The glaciers near the summit of Mount Everest created over 2,000 years have been rapidly lost over the last 25 years, and the Nepal Tourism Board is considering a plan to relocate the base camp at 5,364 meters in the Khumbu Glacier. Safety concerns have been raised as climbers testify that the number of crevasses is increasing while they are sleeping at the base camp.

There are various scenarios regarding the future of polar bears, which are endangered due to glacial loss. In general, polar bears ride on sea ice and hunt from afar. But in southeastern Greenland, polar bears living in isolation and staying only near the coastal area have been discovered recently. They are smaller in size and have a smaller number of offspring, showing genetic and physical differences from other polar bears.

On July 3, the glacier of 3,343-meter-tall Marmolada, the highest peak in the Dolomites in the Northern Italian Alps, collapsed, leaving seven killed and 14 missing. University of Padua, Italy, warned that the size of the glacier has decreased by as much as 85 percent — from 95 million cubic meters in 1954 to 14 million cubic meters — but no one expected it would lead to such a serious catastrophe. The awareness on climate change should not remain at conceptual levels. A more serious approach is needed before it is too late.
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