What’s the news?
- According to a study published in journal Scientific reports, Glaciers in the Himalayas are melting at an “exceptional” rate because of global warming, threatening the water supply of millions of people in Asia.
- The Himalayan mountain range is home to the world’s third-largest amount of glacier ice, after Antarctica and the Arctic and is often referred to as ‘the Third Pole’.
- The researchers found that the Himalayan glaciers have lost ice ten times more quickly over the last few decades than on average since the last major glacier expansion 400-700 years ago, a period known as the Little Ice Age.
- The study also shows that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking far more rapidly than glaciers in other parts of the world.
- Eg: A team led by researchers at the University of Leeds, UK, made a reconstruction of the size and ice surfaces of 14,798 Himalayan glaciers during the Little Ice Age and calculated that the glaciers have lost around 40 per cent of their area, shrinking from a peak of 28,000 square kilometres (km2) to around 19,600 km2 today.
- The water released through that melting has raised sea levels across the world by between 0.92 millimetres (mm) and 1.38 mm.
- The researchers found that acceleration in the rate of loss has only emerged within the last few decades, and coincides with human-induced climate change.
- The acceleration of melting of Himalayan glaciers has significant implications for hundreds of millions of people who depend on Asia’s major river systems for food and energy and these rivers include the Brahmaputra, Ganges and Indus.
- The Himalayan glaciers are generally losing mass faster in the eastern regions, taking in east Nepal and Bhutan north of the main divide.
- The study suggests this variation is probably due to differences in geographical features on the two sides of the mountain range and their interaction with the atmosphere resulting in different weather patterns.
- Researchers emphasised that Himalayan glaciers are also declining faster where they end in lakes, which have several warming effects, rather than where they end on land as the number and size of these lakes are increasing so continued acceleration in mass loss can be expected.
- Glaciers which have significant amounts of natural debris upon their surfaces are also losing mass more quickly, contributing around 46.5 per cent of total volume loss despite making up only around 7.5 per cent of the total number of glaciers.