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Scientists document melting of glaciers around the world

WASHINGTON — Over the past decade, scientists and photographers have visited the world’s glaciers, watching them shrink each time.

Now they want others to see how a warming planet is melting masses of ice in a series of before-and-after photos.

In the Geological Society of America’s journal GSA Today, a group of ice researchers and a photographer-filmmaker published pictures showing how much five of the world’s glaciers have thinned.

‘‘There is something fundamentally compelling about the approach they take. For all our emphasis on models and math, seeing is still believing,’’ said University of Colorado ice scientist Ted Scambos, who was not part of the Geological Society team.


Under natural conditions, glaciers at times melt and retreat while others grow and advance. But measurements from Earth’s 5,200 glaciers show warming temperatures have increased the number of melting glaciers and the speed of glacial retreat, according to the study.

Scientists primarily blame manmade global warming from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.

‘‘There is something that touches the heart more profoundly when you see it in pictures than when you see it in maps or reports or graphs,’’ said photographer James Balog, who founded the nonprofit Earth Vision Institute. ‘‘It certainly brings it alive.’’

Here are some of the effects that the group has documented:

■  Alaska: The forward edge of the Mendenhall glacier outside of Juneau receded about 1,800 feet between 2007 and 2015.

■  Iceland: The Solheimajokull glacier shriveled by about 2,050 feet between 2007 and 2015.

■  Peru: Ohio State ice scientist Lonnie Thompson has visited the Qori Kalis glacier since 1974. Between 1978 and 2016, it shriveled 3,740 feet. Thompson described his regular expeditions to the Peruvian glacier ‘‘like visiting a terminally ill family member.’’

■  Switzerland: The Stein glacier shrunk about 1,800 feet between 2006 and 2015. The Trift glacier retreated nearly three quarters of a mile between 2006 and 2015.