Global warming: Himalayas are melting at record speed

Ground Report | New Delhi: Himalayas are melting; A study by the University of Leeds in England found that the Himalayan ice caps have lost ten times more ice in recent decades than the average since the last great glacial expansion 400 to 700 years ago, a period is known as the Little Ice Age.

Himalayas are melting

The study also found that the Himalayan glaciers are shrinking faster than those in other parts of the world, a rate of loss that the researchers call “exceptional.”

Our findings clearly show that the Himalayan melting is occurring at a rate at least ten times greater than the average rate of past centuries. This acceleration in the rate of loss has only appeared in recent decades and coincides with human-induced climate change, Dr. Jonathan Carrivick, Professor, Faculty of Geography, University of Leeds said.

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The article, published in the journal Scientific Reports, reconstructed the size and ice surface of 14,798 Himalayan glaciers during the Little Ice Age. According to the researchers’ calculations, they have lost about 40% of their area, from a peak of 28,000 km2 to around 19,600 km2 to date.

During this period, they also lost between 390 km3 and 586 km3 of ice, equivalent to all the ice contained today in the Alps of central Europe, the Caucasus, and Scandinavia combined. The water released by this melt has also raised the sea level worldwide from 0.92 mm to 1.38 mm.

Himalayan mountains

The Himalayan range is home to the third-largest amount of ice in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic, and is often referred to as the “third pole”. The accelerating melting of the Himalayas has important implications for the hundreds of millions of people who depend on major river systems in Asia for their food and energy. These rivers include the Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Indus.

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The team used satellite images and digital elevation models to produce outlines of the extent of glaciers 400 to 700 years ago and to “reconstruct” the ice surface. Satellite images have revealed ridges that mark the boundaries of the old glacier, in order to estimate its extent and the ice surface elevation. Comparing the reconstruction of this ancient glacier with the current one determined the volume and, therefore, the loss of mass between the Little Ice Age and today.

Eastern regions

Himalayan glaciers are losing mass more rapidly in the eastern regions, occupying eastern Nepal and Bhutan north of the main divide. The study suggests that this variation is likely due to differences in the geographic features of the two sides of the mountain range and their interaction with the atmosphere, resulting in different weather patterns.

According to Dr. Carrivick, while we must act urgently to reduce and mitigate the impact of climate change on glaciers and melt-fed rivers, modeling this impact on ice caps must also take into account the role factors such as lakes and debris.

The people of the region are already seeing changes beyond anything that has been observed for centuries. The research is only the latest confirmation that these changes are accelerating and will have a significant impact on entire nations and regions.

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