Tag: Himalaya

Study eyes link between giant Tibet avalanche and global warming

Lubrication by meltwater may have enabled massive slide

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Credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens and Jesse Allen, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey, Sentinel data from the European Space Agency, and ASTER data from NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team.

Staff Report

Although the world’s ice and snow is melting rapidly on a geologic time scale, it still seems to be a gradual process, at least for casual observers. But last summer, July 16, to be exact, 70 million tons of ice broke off the Aru Glacier in western Tibet and crashed far down into the valley, killing nine nomadic yak herders. NASA scientists reported on the avalanche here.

A team of scientists who analyzed the giant avalanche now say there’s a good chance that global warming was a key factor in the unusual slide. The researchers, who published their findings this week in the Journal of Glaciology, said that that the avalanche lasted about four or five minutes, burying 3.7 square miles of the valley floor in that time. Something — likely meltwater at the base of the glacier — must have lubricated the ice to speed its flow down the mountain, they said. Continue reading “Study eyes link between giant Tibet avalanche and global warming”

Are Mt. Everest’s glaciers doomed by global warming?

‘The signal of future glacier change in the region is clear: continued mass loss from glaciers is likely’

Researchers taking measurements in the Mera Glacier region of the Dudh Kosi basin. Photo courtesy Patrick Wagnon.
Researchers taking measurements in the Mera Glacier region of the Dudh Kosi basin. Photo courtesy Patrick Wagnon.
Scientists are trying to pinpoint the impacts of global warming on Himalayan glaciers and regional water supplies. Photo courtesy Nasa Earth Observatory.
Scientists are trying to pinpoint the impacts of global warming on Himalayan glaciers and regional water supplies. Photo courtesy Nasa Earth Observatory.

Staff Report

FRISCO —In the worst-case global warming scenario, glaciers in the Mt. Everest region — the roof of the world — could shrink between 70 percent and 99 percent by 2100, scientists said this week, waring of dire downstream consequences for millions of people who rely on water from those ice fields.

“The signal of future glacier change in the region is clear: continued and possibly accelerated mass loss from glaciers is likely given the projected increase in temperatures,” said Joseph Shea, a glacier hydrologist at the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal, and leader of the study. Continue reading “Are Mt. Everest’s glaciers doomed by global warming?”

Climate: Melting Himalayan glaciers threaten farms

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A NASA Earth Observatory image shows the high peaks of the snow-capped Himalaya Mountains.

New study documents pace of ice loss in world’s tallest mountain

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Melting Himalyan glaciers may not be causing a direct rise in sea level, but in some cases, the water is causing lakes overflow, flooding valuable agricultural land.

Glaciers are important indicators of climate change. Global warming causes mountain glaciers to melt, which, apart from the shrinking of the Greenlandic and Antarctic ice sheets, is regarded as one of the main causes of the present global sea-level rise.

Tibet’s glaciers have been losing mass at the rate of about 16 gigatons per year for the past decade. That loss is spread across about 80 percent of Tibet’s glaciers, according to Tobias Bolch, a glaciologist from the University of Zurich. That’s more than four times the volume of water in Lake Zurich and around six percent of the total loss in mass of all the glaciers on Earth. Continue reading “Climate: Melting Himalayan glaciers threaten farms”

Global warming: Mt. Everest’s glaciers melting away

Temperatures up, precipitation down in key Asian watersheds

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A new study finds a decline in snow and ice on Mount Everest (second peak from left) and the national park surrounding it. Photo courtesy Pavel Novak.

FRISCO — Even at the frozen roof of the world in the mighty Himalaya, global warming is evident.

The snow line in the Mt. Everest region has moved uphill by 180 meters (590 feet). Glaciers in the region are shrinking, some by as much as 13 percent in the past 50 years, and precipitation has declined, according to a team of scientists who will present their findings this week at the Meeting of the Americas in Cancún, Mexico.

Glaciers smaller than one square kilometer are disappearing the fastest and have experienced a 43 percent decrease in surface area since the 1960s, according to Sudeep Thakuri, who is leading the research as part of his PhD graduate studies at the University of Milan in Italy. Based on the detailed measurements of satellite images, the pace of melting speeding up, Thakuri said. Continue reading “Global warming: Mt. Everest’s glaciers melting away”

Global warming: Bhutan’s glaciers at risk

Graduate student Josh Maurer and professor Summer Rupper on a glacier  near Rinchen Zoe La, Bhutan. Photo courtesy Brigham Young University.

Snowfall rates would need to double to slow glacial retreat

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — After significant warming during half century, about 10 percent of Bhutan’s glaciers are likely to disappear within the next few decades — even if regional and global temperatures were to stabilize at current levels.

“These particular glaciers have seen so much warming in the past few decades that they’re currently playing lots of catch up,” Brigham Young University geology professor Summer Rupper said after studying climate and glaciers in the Himalaya.

Rupper’s most conservative findings the amount of melt water coming off these glaciers could drop by 30 percent. Increasing temperatures are just one culprit behind glacier retreat. A number of climate factors such as wind, humidity, precipitation and evaporation can affect how glaciers behave. With some Bhutanese glaciers as long as 13 miles, an imbalance in any of these areas can take them decades to completely respond. Continue reading “Global warming: Bhutan’s glaciers at risk”

Global warming: New study says Himalayan glaciers not melting as fast as previously predicted, at least for now

Some glaciers have expanded in the past decade, but concerns remain about growing glacial lakes in the region

Retreating mountain glaciers in Bhutan. This satellite image shows the termini of several glaciers in the Himalayan mountains of Bhutan. The glaciers have been receding over the past few decades, and lakes have formed on the surfaces and near the termini of many of the glaciers. IMAGE COURTESY NASA.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Glaciers in the Himalaya are not shrinking as fast as once predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Some glaciers in the Karakoram Range have grown slightly in the past decade, according to a team of European researchers who recently completed one of the most detailed surveys of the region to-date.

But there are still valid concerns about variability that could leave some valleys dry, at least on a seasonal basis.

“The majority of the Himalayan glaciers are shrinking, but much less rapidly than predicted earlier,” said Tobias Bolch, of the University of Zurich and Dresden University of Technology. Continue reading “Global warming: New study says Himalayan glaciers not melting as fast as previously predicted, at least for now”

Roads: Crossing the Himalaya

Khardung La is one of the highest passes in the world

A SECMOL volunteer sits atop one of our buses as we wait for the pass to open.

By Garrett Palm

Oxygen deprived, I mistake the older, leather-clad German couple’s “Sprechen sie Deutsch?” as asking if I speak Dutch. I sing a happy birthday song in the wrong language, learned from my mother, which they greet with polite, confused laughter. Continue reading “Roads: Crossing the Himalaya”