Himalayan glaciers melting twice as fast now
Ice loss from glaciers contributed more to sea level rise than ice sheets between 1993 and 2010, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in their 5th Assessment Report.
The Himalayas, home to the highest peak in Mount Everest (29,029 feet), is losing billions of tons of ice from its glaciers.
And this rate is accelerating with rising temperatures. Guess what, the amount of melting that took place from 2000 to 2016 is equivalent to twice that of the last quarter of the 20th century, a study published in the Science Advances journal revealed.
The Himalayan mountain region has the third largest deposit of ice and snow after Antarctica and the Arctic.
And therefore, this fast depleting ice threatens water supplies from mighty rivers, including the Indus, the Yangtze, and the Ganga-Brahmaputra, that supports hundreds of millions of people living downstream in Asia.
Also, this report is significant because ice loss from glaciers contributed more to sea level rise than ice sheets between 1993 and 2010, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change said in their 5th Assessment Report.
How did they do it?
Using declassified spy satellite imagery extending back to the 70s, the researchers quantified ice loss for 650 of the region’s largest glaciers.
Then they compared the trends to data from more recent satellite remote sensing studies. All told, the analysis spanned more than 40 years of ice loss—from 1975 to 2016—and 1,200 miles of land, from the northernmost region of India across Nepal to Bhutan.
But why did the melting glaciers picked up speed in the last few decades?
The researchers estimated how much air temperature would have had to change to provide enough energy to melt the glaciers at such a rapid clip.
Their analysis revealed air temperatures would have had to be 0.7 to 2.5 degrees Fahrenheit warmer during the 2000 to 2016 period than they were between 1975 and 2000.
Co-author Joerg Schaefer, a professor at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, noted that this is huge. “In the middle of the last ice age the mean annual temperature was only 3 degrees C cooler,” he said.