Mount Everest is very much part of the earth we live in and is not spared by climate change. But a new study unveiled today says that a glacier on the world’s highest peak is melting far too fast.
Climate change is not sparing Mount Everest either. A study unveiled by researchers at the University of Maine has found that the highest glacier on the world’s tallest peak is melting at a rapid pace.
Researchers say that the South Col glacier has lost more than 180 feet (54 metres) of thickness over the past 25 years due to climate change and wind that have weathered its surface, melting the glacier.
The South Col is a sharp-edged col between Mount Everest and Lhotse, the highest and fourth-highest mountains in the world, respectively. It is situated around 7,906 metres (25,938 feet) above sea level and is relatively flat.
The researchers who undertook the study say that the glacier is thinning 80-times faster than the time it initially took the ice to form on the surface.
The 80-times rate of decline has been attributed to climate change – more precisely to warmer temperatures than what existed earlier atop Everest peak together with strong winds. This has led to the ice vanish. The researchers point out that the quantity of ice that has turned into water since the 1990s would, under normal circumstances, take around 2,000 years to melt.
The research involved a team of 10 scientists to visit the glacier and install two weather monitoring stations. They also extracted samples from a 10-meter-long (around 32 feet) ice core.
This showed that the glacier’s thick snowpack too has been eroded, exposing the underlying ice to the sun, they say. This has, in turn, accelerated the melting process.
Global scale implications
Expedition leader Paul Mayewski told the BBC that the study findings add a “high elevation understanding that has not previously been available and that drives home the remarkable sensitivity earth systems have to even relatively small change.”
According to Mayewski, the rapid melting could have a wide variety of “significant regional to global scale implications”.
The Himalayas are a source of water for all of Nepal and Bhutan and large parts of India and Bangladesh, besides Afghanistan and Pakistan. So, the scientists feel that the melting of glaciers can be ominous on life in the SouthAsia region.
The findings suggest that the “South Col Glacier may be on the way out – it may already be a ‘relic’ from an older, colder, time,” says another author of the study, Mariusz Potocki.
Study co-author and climate scientist from London’s Kings College, Tom Matthews was quoted by the BBC as saying that there had been no single change in the region’s climate to cause the surge in melting.
“Instead, the steady uptick in temperatures eventually pushes the glacier across a threshold, and suddenly everything changes,” he told the broadcaster.
While glacier melt has been widely studied, this study on the impact of climate change on a glacier on the world’s highest peak is a new revelation.
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