Half of Arctic ice cover has melted since 1960s

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The Independent Online

Nearly half the ice covering the Arctic has melted, warns an authoritative report to be published in May. An alarming disappearance of ice is occurring at both poles and from glaciers worldwide as global warming proceeds, and in decades there could be none left at all on the Arctic ocean.

Nearly half the ice covering the Arctic has melted, warns an authoritative report to be published in May. An alarming disappearance of ice is occurring at both poles and from glaciers worldwide as global warming proceeds, and in decades there could be none left at all on the Arctic ocean.

The report, from the Worldwatch Institute, in Washington, describes how entire ice shelves have already disintegrated in the Antarctic and how a fifth of the glaciers in the eastern Himalayas have vanished.

"Earth's ice cover is melting at an astonishing rate," it says. The melting had "accelerated rapidly" over the past decade as more and more polluting "greenhouse gases" contaminated the atmosphere, increasing global warming and preparing the way for raisedsea levels and more flooding.

Last week, the Government announced a radical programme to cut Britain's emissions of the gases to a level that goes beyond what is legally required, in an attempt to breathe new life into faltering international negotiations over combating climate change.

John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, warned ofmore disasters, like the recent floods in Mozambique, as global warming increases. The Worldwatch report says that every two years an area the size of Denmark vanishes from the ice sheet that covers the Arctic Ocean around the North Pole.

Meanwhile, the remaining ice has lost nearly half its thickness. The overall volume of the ice has shrunk by 40 per cent over the past 30 years, and it could all be gone "in a matter of decades". Three Antarctic ice sheets have "fully disintegrated" and two more are "expected to break up soon".

The World Glacier Monitoring Service has also reported "extreme" losses of ice from the world's mountains over the past few years.

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