A recent study carried out by the University of Maine found that the South Col Glacier has lost more than 180ft (54m) of thickness in the last 25 years. The glacier, which is situated around 7,906m (25,938 ft) above sea-level, is thinning 80 times faster than it first took the ice to form on the surface.
Warming temperatures and strong winds have been considered the main cause of the decline.
“Since the 1990s, ice that took around 2,000 years to form has melted away,” the study says. Similarly, the study has also found that the glacier’s thick snowpack has been eroded, exposing the underlying black ice to the sun and accelerating the melting process.
“The findings suggested that the South Col Glacier may be on the way out—it may already be a ‘relic’ from an older, colder time,” said Mariusz Potocki, one of the study’s lead researchers, to the BBC.
The impact of climate change on glaciers at this height had not previously been studied.
Altogether a team of 10 scientists went to the glacier, where they installed the world’s two highest weather monitoring stations and extracted samples from a 10-meter-long (around 32 feet) ice core.
“The study adds a high elevation understanding that has not previously been available and that drives home the remarkable sensitivity Earth systems have to even relatively small change,” said expedition leader Dr Paul Mayewski to the BBC.