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Geophysics

Largest French Glacier Melting

The Cook ice cap in the Kerguelen Islands, a French territory in the southern Indian Ocean, has shrunk at an ever increasing speed over the last 20 years.1
Matching satellite data from 1991, 2001, and 2003 with historical data from 1963, researchers from LEGOS2 observed a 22% volume loss over the 40-year period, a process which accelerated in recent years.
On average, the ice mass has thinned by 1.5 meters per year, a much faster pace than that recorded for other glaciers in the world.
Scientists believe global warming, through high temperatures and low precipitation since the 1980s, is partly responsible for the melting. But since the ice loss started in the 1960s, researchers also put the blame on the glacier's delayed response to the natural warming that followed the Little Ice Age, a cold period that ended in the second half of the 19th century.

Notes :

1. E. Berthier et al., J. Geophys. Res., 2009. 114 doi:10.1029/2008JF001192.
2. Laboratoire d'études en géophysique et océanographie spatiales (CNRS / IRD / CNES / Université Paul Sabatier).

Contacts :

Etienne Berthier,
etienne.berthier@legos.obs-mip.fr


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