In 2012—for the 23rd consecutive year—mountain glaciers worldwide lost more mass through melting than they gained through new snow accumulation. The retreat of the majority of mountain glaciers worldwide is one of the clearest signs that climate is warming over the long term.

Glacier mass balance in 2011 (the most recent year for which worldwide analysis is complete) was negative, and preliminary data indicate that 2012 will probably be the 22nd consecutive year of net losses in glacier mass. Between 1980 and 2011, glaciers around the world lost the water equivalent of 15.7 meters. That would be like slicing a roughly 17-meter-thick slab off the top of the average glacier and repeating that exercise worldwide.

The summer of 2012 brought Greenland far more extensive melt than anything observed in the satellite record: in July 2012, surface melt extended over nearly the entire ice sheet. The standardized melt index was nearly double the previous record.

Data from 2010 indicate that mountain glaciers predominantly lost mass, and preliminary data from 2011 indicate a continuation of the same long-term trend.