Glaciers in many parts of the world are increasing, according to a new United Nations report, despite climate change.
Glaciers have grown in western Norway, New Zealand’s South Island, parts of Asia and the Tierra del Fuego in South America.
However, overall ice and snow on mountains has been retreating since the industrial age, according to scientists from around the world.
In some regions, it is very likely that glaciers will largely disappear by the end of this century, whereas in others ice cover will persist but in a reduced form for many centuries to come.
The largest losses have been recorded in Patagonia, which cover parts of Argentina and Chile, followed by glaciers in Alaska.
There have also been large losses in the northwest United States and southwest Canada followed by the mountains of Asia, including the Hindu Kush of the Himalayas, the Arctic and the Andes.
In Europe the rate of loss is slower. In fact glaciers have been putting on mass since the mid-1970s, but this trend was reversed around the year 2000.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a separate science body attached to the UN, was forced to admit that a previous report was wrong to claim the Himalayan glaciers will melt by 2035.
However the new report made clear that glaciers are being lost in the region, albeit on a slower scale.
Achim Steiner, head of the UN’s Environment Programme, said loss of glaciers can have a severe impact on millions of people. For example in the Himalayas the glaciers are responsible for drinking water and irrigating fields.
“Accumulation of science shows us a clear general trend of melting glaciers linked to a warming climate and perhaps other impacts, such as the deposit of soot, reducing the reflection of heat back into space”, he said. “This report underlines a global trend, observed over many decades now in some parts of the globe, which has short and long-term implications for considerable numbers of people in terms of water supplies and vulnerability”.
As more than 190 countries meet in Cancun for the latest round of UN climate talks, Mr Steiner called for action to stop global warming and reduce the risk from melting glaciers.