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NASA News: 1800s Glacier Retreat from Alps Diagnosed by NASA Team

A team of scientists has discovered the "something" missing from the equation of previously conducted 1800s glacier retreat study. The conflict in the data of glaciologists and climatologists of Alps seems to be resolved after this endeavor by NASA.

End of Ice Age

Before informing you about the postulates of the study, let me explain to you about 'Ice Age'. The Ice Age was a period between the 14th and 19th centuries and was earmarked by the expansion of mountain glaciers and some drop in temperatures in Europe.

Recently, a NASA-led team enlightened the minds of Europe about the retreating snow cover from Alps irrespective of the cool temperatures and enough snowfall in this period. There was good amount of decrease in snow cover on Alps, and the snow withdrew at the rate of 0.6 miles during this time. Facts state that the retreat of snow began in the 1860s which is dubbed as the end of the Little Ice Age by the scientists.

NASA-led Research

Amidst all speculations and debates, and to understand the retreat of snow cover on Alps, NASA researchers and collaborators assessed historical records, ancient ice from cores in glaciers, and modern air pollution studies. They modeled the glacial behavior and worked to understand the pattern of glacier retreat on Alps.

The facts have been stated in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and aver that black carbon, which is the strongest sunlight-absorbing atmospheric particle deposited on the snow-cover, started to collect on the lower region of Alps.

The researchers, headed by Thomas Painter, a snow and ice scientist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., then shifted to history to draw some conclusion.

The scientists extracted the information from the ice cores drilled from many European mountain glaciers. Further, levels of carbon particles, blanketed in the ice core layers, were studied by them.

Eventually, the region where the levels of black carbon was high or low was seen and spotted by the researchers. For this, they saw the modern observations of how pollutants are distributed in the Alps.

They studied computer models of glacier behavior and recorded weather conditions to delve more into the subject. Here it was noticed that there was a huge impact of lower-elevation pollution.

After considering this impact, the researchers concluded as they found the observations to be parallel to the historic record of glacial retreat.

Well, this was the phase when Europe was encased in the soot of industrialization. There was a great use of coal by Europe to heat homes and huge power consumption for transportation. So, humungous quantities of black carbon and other dark particles wafted into the air because of such practices.

Scientists Speak

According to the co-author Waleed Abdalati, director of the Cooperative Institute for Research and Environmental Sciences (CIRES) at the University of Colorado Boulder, "This study uncovers likely human fingerprints on our changing environment. It's a reminder that the actions we take have far-reaching impacts on the environment in which we live."