Himalayas Melting Has Massively Accelerated

Glaciers are declining at an 'exceptional' rate, researchers say
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 20, 2021 2:54 PM CST
Himalayan Glaciers Melting at an 'Exceptional' Rate
Khumbu glacier in northeast Nepal.   (Wikimedia Commons/Goutam1962)

Glaciers are shrinking in many parts of the world but in the Himalayas, where the ice loss will affect hundreds of millions, they're melting at an "exceptional" rate, researchers say. University of Leeds glaciologist Jonathan Carrivick says a study that involved analyzing satellite photos of more than 15,000 glaciers shows that "this part of the world is changing faster than perhaps anybody realized," the Wall Street Journal reports. The researchers say that in recent decades, the glaciers have been losing ice at a rate 10 times faster than any other period in the centuries since the "Little Ice Age" around 400 years ago.

"This acceleration in the rate of loss has only emerged within the last few decades and coincides with human-induced climate change," Carrivick said in a statement. The Himalayas region, nicknamed the "Third Pole," holds more ice than any other area apart from the Arctic and Antarctic, USA Today reports. They are a vital source of water for hundreds of millions of people in the region and more than 1.6 billion people in India and other countries in the river valleys below—but they are now melting much faster than they can be replenished, contributing to rising sea levels.

The ice loss in the region is "the most dramatic glacier response of any world region," researchers said in the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports. Researchers found that glaciers in the region are melting faster where they end in lakes and where they have large amounts of natural debris on their surfaces. "People in the region are already seeing changes that are beyond anything witnessed for centuries," says study co-author Simon Cook at the University of Dundee. "This research is just the latest confirmation that those changes are accelerating and that they will have a significant impact on entire nations and regions." (In 2019, researchers said it was too late to save at least a third of the ice cap.)

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