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    Europe tackles freak weather risk

    By Alex Kirby

    Rising temperatures are shrinking all but two of the main glaciers that give Europeans clean water, scientists say.

    A report by the European Environment Agency says the current rate of glacier retreat is now reaching levels higher than those of the last 10,000 years.

    It says climate change is affecting the whole environment, from the plight of glaciers to plants' growing seasons.

    The EEA is developing a continent-wide internet information system to help people to prepare for extreme weather.

    Looking for help

    From 1850 to 1970, it says in EEA Signals 2004, glaciers in the European Alps lost about a third of their area and half their mass, with 20-30% of the remaining ice lost since 1980.

    It says about 75% of the glaciers in the Swiss Alps are likely to disappear by 2050.

    The agency's executive director, Professor Jacqueline McGlade, said what happened during extreme events was perhaps more important than the monitoring of climate change's impacts.