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Indonesia's Rare Tropical Glaciers Melting Away June 9, 2010
Papua glacier photo
Papuan glaciers have lost about 80 percent of their ice since 1936 — two-thirds of which has disappeared since Thompson’s last scientific expedition in the early 1970s.
The leader of a new scientific expedition to eastern Indonesia’s equatorial glaciers in the mountains of Papua province says he has found they are melting at an alarming rate.

“These glaciers are dying,” said Ohio State University glaciologist Lonnie Thompson. “Before I was thinking they had a few decades, but now I'd say we're looking at years.”

He said that his expedition had been pounded with rain every day, something he has never before encountered during three decades of drilling ice cores.

He says he is fortunate to have collected climate details stored in the ice before it disappears forever.

Thompson says the location of the glaciers makes them uniquely important “archives” of climate in the eastern Indian Ocean for the past several thousand years.

Papuan glaciers lie along the fringe of the Indian Ocean, which is the world's warmest ocean. Climate information stored in the glaciers could provide clues about regional weather patterns, which play a key role in the El Niño/La Niña phenomena.

The once expansive glaciers have now shrunk to just 1 square mile in coverage and are only about 100 feet deep due to climate change.

Photo: Australian National University