Researchers say a small glacier in the mountains west of Boulder could disappear in about 20 years because of regional climate warming and drought, and similar effects could be underway elsewhere in Colorado's high country.

University of Colorado Professor Mark Williams said Tuesday a severe drought and high temperatures in the early 2000s caused a rapid loss of ice from Arikaree Glacier and from permafrost under the alpine tundra nearby.

He says a long-term warming trend in the Western United States has prolonged the melt-off.

Williams says the regional warming could be related to global climate change but that's not certain.

The university has been collecting data in the area around the glacier since the 1940s. Williams says few other areas of Colorado have such a long history of study.