London, March 17 : Data from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has shown that the rate at which some of the world's glaciers are melting has more than doubled.
The findings were compiled by the World Glacier Monitoring Service, which is supported by UNEP.
For the study, glaciers across nine mountain ranges were analysed by calculating the thickening and thinning in terms of 'water equivalent'.
In its entirety, the research includes figures from around 100 glaciers, with data showing significant shrinkage taking place in European countries including Austria, Norway, Sweden, Italy, Spain and Switzerland.
According to a report in BBC News, average glacial shrinkage has risen from 30 centimetres per year between 1980 and 1999, to 1.5 metres in 2006, with some of the biggest losses occurring in the Alps and Pyrenees mountain ranges in Europe.
During 1980-1999, average loss rates had been 0.3 metres per year. Since the turn of the millennium, this rate had increased to about half a metre per year.
"The latest figures are part of what appears to be an accelerating trend with no apparent end in sight," said Dr. Wilfried Haeberli, director of the service.
"This continues the trend in accelerated ice loss during the past two and a half decades and brings the total loss since 1980 to more than 10.5 metres of water equivalent," he added.
Experts see this trend as a key climate change indicator and have called for "immediate action" to reverse it.
"Millions if not billions of people depend directly or indirectly on these natural water storage facilities for drinking water, agriculture, industry and power generation during key parts of the year," said Achim Steiner, Under-Secretary General of the UN and executive director of its environment programme (UNEP)
Steiner said that action was already being taken and pointed out that the elements of a green economy were emerging from the more the money invested in renewable energies.
"Governments must agree on a decisive new emissions reduction and adaptation-focused regime. Otherwise, and like the glaciers, our room for manoeuvre and the opportunity to act may simply melt away," he said.
According to Dr Ian Willis, of the Scott Polar Research Institute, "It is not too late to stop the shrinkage of these ice sheets but we need to take action immediately."
"There are many canaries emerging in the climate change coal mine. The glaciers are perhaps among those making the most noise and it is absolutely essential that everyone sits up and takes notice," he added.