Energy & Environment

Himalayan glaciers melting at ‘exceptional’ rate: research

Associated Press/Rishabh R. Jain

The Himalayan glaciers are melting at an “exceptional rate,” which is threatening the water supply for millions of individuals in Asia, according to a new study.

University of Leeds researchers found that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking far faster than glaciers in other areas of the world, a pace that the researchers called “exceptional.”

They also found that melting of the Himalayan glaciers has accelerated tenfold in recent decades, compared to the average ice loss since the so-called Little Ice Age some 400 to 700 years ago, according to a statement from the university.

The Himalayan mountain range is home to the third-largest mass of glacier ice in the world, behind Antarctica and the Arctic, and is sometimes described as “the Third Pole.”

The study, published in Scientific Reports, used satellite images and digital elevation to reconstruct the ice surfaces of 14,798 Himalayan glaciers that existed during the Little Ice Age, according to the university.

The researchers then compared the reconstructed glacier to its current state to discern the volume and mass lost over time. 

The group of researchers found that the area of the glaciers decreased from 28,000 square kilometers to about 19,600 square kilometers today, which is a roughly 40 percent decrease.

The researchers also observed a decrease in ice between 390 cubed kilometers and 586 cubed kilometers, which is equal to all of the ice in the central European Alps, the Caucasus and Scandinavia combined.

The researchers predicted that the water released as a result of the melting increased sea levels globally by between 0.92 millimeters and 1.38 millimeters, according to the university’s statement.

The large amount of melting of the Himalayan glaciers poses serious consequences for hundreds of millions of individuals who rely on river systems in Asia for food and energy, including around the Brahmaputra, Ganges and Indus river basins.

“This acceleration in the rate of loss has only emerged within the last few decades, and coincides with human-induced climate change,” Dr. Jonathan Carrivick, the corresponding author and deputy head of the University of Leeds School of Geography, said in a statement.

Tags Climate change

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