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Scientists say that Alberta's Athabasca glacier is disappearing at an 'astonishing' rate and could be completely gone in less than a century.

Alberta's Athabasca glacier disappearing rapidly


Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, May 27, 2014, 2:23 PM - Scientists say that Alberta's Athabasca glacier is disappearing at an 'astonishing' rate and could be completely gone in less than a century.

According to Parks Canada, the glacier is losing more than five metres of ice a year and is at risk of vanishing within a generation.

The popular tourist destination is one of the most visited glaciers on the continent and brings in a significant amount of tourist revenue to Alberta.

Athabasca Glacier receives, on average, about seven metres of snow annually -- but that hasn't stopped it from shrinking steadily over the course of 150 years.

"Every year we drive stakes five metres deep into the glacier in the fall. We have to return and re-drill them in mid-summer because a lot of those stakes on the Athabasca Glacier, the one that a lot of people go visit, will be lying flat on the ice at that time,"  ohn Wilmshurst, Jasper National Park's resource conservation manager, told the Canadian Press.

"We're losing at least five metres a year on the surface of that glacier."


RELATED: Greenland glacier melt made worse by wildfires


Since 1890, the base of the ice sheet has retreated by 1.5 kilometres, and experts say the above-average snowfall seen over the past winter won't be enough to slow the melt.

"What we're finding is that, even with substantial snow years, the summers are warm enough and the fall is prolonged enough that all of that snow goes and we're still losing five metres," Bob Sandford, chairman of the Canadian Partnership Initiative of the UN Water for Life Decade told the Canadian Press, adding that the rapid retreat is "mind boggling."

Glaciers around the world have been making headlines lately.

Last week, a new study by researchers at Dartmouth College revealed that Arctic ice is trapping floating microplastics as it freezes. By citing current melting trends, the team estimates that 1 trillion pieces of plastic could be released into the ecosystem in the next ten years.

With files from the Canadian Press

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