Sunday, May 31, 2015

Climate Change Could Melt Everest Region’s Glaciers

Mount Everest (Credit: Phobus/Flickr) Click to Enlarge.
The Dudh Koshi basin spans 1 million acres and includes some of world’s tallest peaks including Mount Everest.  Glaciers tumble down from the highest reaches to the valleys below, shaping the landscape and culture of the region.

But climate change has the region primed for a major meltdown.  A new study published in The Cryosphere shows that by 2100, the jagged tongues of ice that define the region could shrink by 70 percent or greater as the region warms.
For all the importance of glaciers, very little data is available on them because of the harsh conditions and challenges of collecting it.  But the Everest region is an exception thanks to its exceptional status.  Joseph Shea, a research scientist at the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development who led the new study, said that status made it a prime region to model the intricacies of future glacier changes.

Glaciers depend on snow and cold temperatures to maintain their balance.  In Nepal, the majority of the former arrives during the monsoon season, which accounts for 77 percent of all precipitation in the region.  Understanding how climate change will affect the monsoon is still an area of active research.  Some signs indicate total precipitation has decreased even while more of it is falling on fewer days.

Temperature is a much clearer signal, though. Shea said temperatures could warm by as much as 12°F in region by 2100.

“In this basin, it’s not that different from other places,” he said.  “It’s pretty simple physics to warm temperatures and get more ice melt.”

The rise in temperatures would raise the freezing line on the mountain, exposing more ice to melt and reducing the area where nourishing snow falls.  Estimates from the study indicate that the freezing line could lift by as much as 3,900 feet by 2100, which could expose the majority of glaciers in the region to temperatures above 32°F in warm-weather months.

Read more at Climate Change Could Melt Everest Region’s Glaciers

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