Quantcast

Himalayan Glacier Melt Has Doubled Since 2000, Satellites Show

Climate
Melt water from Everest's Khumbu glacier. Ed Giles / Getty Images

The glaciers of the Himalayas are melting twice as fast as they were in the year 2000, a study published Wednesday in Science Advances found.


The researchers assembled the most detailed look to date at the last 40 years of Himalayan ice loss to date, combining contemporary satellite information with data from declassified U.S. spy satellites. They found that average ice-loss per year had doubled between the periods 1975 to 2000 and 2000 to 2016, and that the glaciers had lost more than 25 percent of their ice in the study period, The Guardian reported.

"This is the clearest picture yet of how fast Himalayan glaciers are melting since 1975, and why," research leader Joshua Maurer of Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth observatory told The Guardian.

Melting since 2000 has been especially dramatic, The New York Times reported. The glaciers lost a foot and a half of ice every year since then, and have lost a total of eight billion tons of water each year recently, the equivalent of 3.2 million Olympic size swimming pools. Most of this melting was caused by the climate crisis. While researchers said some ice lost was due to soot from the burning of fossil fuels, most was due to warmer temperatures, which rose by higher rates on average between 2000 and 2016 across the more than 1,200 mile range.

Study co-author Joerg Schaefer, as at Columbia, told CNN that unless we act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and cool the planet, we would see a "pretty devastating scenario for Himalayan glaciers."

University of Leeds glaciology specialist Duncan Quincey, who was not involved in the research, explained why.

"In the short-term, such rapid melt rates will mean summer floods become more frequent as river discharge is increased, but the long-term prospect is one of drought as the glacier reservoir becomes depleted," he told CNN.

Around 800 million people across Asia now rely on Himalayan glaciers for energy, agriculture and drinking water. But this study is part of a growing body of evidence showing how much climate change threatens these glaciers, and the communities they support. A February study found that even if world leaders managed to limit global temperature increase to the Paris agreement goal of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, one third of the ice in the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH) region would still melt by 2100. If temperatures hit two degrees, half of the ice would melt, and if temperatures rose to four or five degrees Celsius, two thirds would disappear.

University College London climate science Prof. Chris Rapley, who was not involved in the study, said ice loss was "already undermining the viability of small communities in the Himalayas as they suffer ever more serious water shortages." If it continued, it would displace a significant number of people.

"Better for all of us to accelerate to net zero as a matter of the highest priority," he told CNN.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Natural Resources Defense Council

By Emily Deanne

Shower shoes? Check. Extra-long sheets? Yep. Energy efficiency checklist? No worries — we've got you covered there. If you're one of the nation's 12.1 million full-time undergraduate college students, you no doubt have a lot to keep in mind as you head off to school. If you're reading this, climate change is probably one of them, and with one-third of students choosing to live on campus, dorm life can have a big impact on the health of our planet. In fact, the annual energy use of one typical dormitory room can generate as much greenhouse gas pollution as the tailpipe emissions of a car driven more than 156,000 miles.

Read More Show Less
Kokia drynarioides, commonly known as Hawaiian tree cotton, is a critically endangered species of flowering plant that is endemic to the Big Island of Hawaii. David Eickhoff / Wikipedia

By Lorraine Chow

Kokia drynarioides is a small but significant flowering tree endemic to Hawaii's dry forests. Native Hawaiians used its large, scarlet flowers to make lei. Its sap was used as dye for ropes and nets. Its bark was used medicinally to treat thrush.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Frederick Bass / Getty Images

States that invest heavily in renewable energy will generate billions of dollars in health benefits in the next decade instead of spending billions to take care of people getting sick from air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels, according to a new study from MIT and reported on by The Verge.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
A couple works in their organic garden. kupicoo / E+ / Getty Images

By Kristin Ohlson

From where I stand inside the South Dakota cornfield I was visiting with entomologist and former USDA scientist Jonathan Lundgren, all the human-inflicted traumas to Earth seem far away. It isn't just that the corn is as high as an elephant's eye — are people singing that song again? — but that the field burgeons and buzzes and chirps with all sorts of other life, too.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
A competitor in action during the Drambuie World Ice Golf Championships in Uummannaq, Greenland on April 9, 2001. Michael Steele / Allsport / Getty Images

Greenland is open for business, but it's not for sale, Greenland's foreign minister Ane Lone Bagger told Reuters after hearing that President Donald Trump asked his advisers about the feasibility of buying the world's largest island.

Read More Show Less
AFP / Getty Images / S. Platt

Humanity faced its hottest month in at least 140 years in July, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday. The finding confirms similar analysis provided by its EU counterparts.

Read More Show Less
Newly established oil palm plantation in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay

By Hans Nicholas Jong

Indonesia's president has made permanent a temporary moratorium on forest-clearing permits for plantations and logging.

It's a policy the government says has proven effective in curtailing deforestation, but whose apparent gains have been criticized by environmental activists as mere "propaganda."

Read More Show Less