Page last updated at 09:11 GMT, Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Researchers study glacier melts

Iolo ap Dafydd
BBC Wales environment correspondent

Pele Maratse and Iolo ap Dafydd
Innuit hunter Pele Maratse and iolo ap Dafydd on a boat near the Apusiaji glacier

As Swansea University researchers assess how fast glaciers in Greenland are melting and looked at the Ikertivaq glacier, Iolo ap Dafydd joined the team.

He was working on the O Flaen Dy Lygaid documentary, produced by BBC Wales, when he travelled to Greenland to observe their work.

Canadian-born Dr Timothy James is a research fellow at Swansea's school of the environment and society.

He said: "If the entire ice sheet was to melt in Greenland, it would raise entire sea levels by 7m - which we're not expecting any time soon.

"What we're really worried about are the small increases in sea level by 10 or 20cm - which are very realistic, and would cause a lot of countries - including Wales - a lot of problems."

Icebergs (Photo: Iolo ap Dafydd)
Icebergs locked at end of a fjord near Kulusuk settlement, eastern Greenland

One of the few ways to see how quickly ice melts in the summer in Greenland, is by helicopter.

While flying low over the ice cap - which stores an estimated 10% of the world's fresh water supply - streams of dark melting water runs off the surface.

Near another glacier, close to the 300-strong Kulusuk settlement, I'm taken by boat across a fjord to see the melting Apusijiar glacier.

Icebergs locked at end of a fjord near Kulusuk settlement, eastern Greenland.

By comparison to bigger and mightier glaciers further north, this is small in comparison.

But even here, it towers over 30ft above the water level , with loud cracks and constant water dripping as the ice melts and falls into the sea.

This glacier like many others in Greenland is retreating at a faster rate now than since records have been kept.


Examining how the coastline could be lost to sea

Climate change is happening agree most scientists, and that's down to our dependency on using oil, gas and coal to produce the energy we need. Gases like carbon dioxide, when released, then warm the atmosphere.

But with changes in the climate, there may be possibilities as well.

At his Aberdyfi home, Sir John Houghton the former Met Office boss, was the first chairman of the inter-governmental panel on climate change, the IPCC.

Sir John said: "There is no doubt climate change is happening.

"No doubt the earth is warming - no doubt about that, and... the IPCC says scientists are 90% certain that human activity like burning coal, oil and gas are the main reasons for the warming of the climate at the moment."

But while Sir John is critical of politicians not being proactive enough, he's keen to point out the opportunities as well.

"Politicians are too timid but I sometimes say about the Welsh, we should get ready for all those tourists who won't want to go to the Mediterranean anymore, because it'll be very dry and too hot, so they'll be coming to Wales for their holidays. And we should get ready for them."

The O Flaen Dy Lygaid documentary, produced by BBC Wales, Dyfroedd Dyfnion, is on S4C (2130 GMT Tuesday 2 December, with English subtitles).

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