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Himalayan Glacier - Shanmugam IAS academy in coimbatore
Himalayan Glacier

MELTING HIMALAYAN GLACIERS IN FASTER RATE

What’s in news?

The melting of Himalayan glaciers has doubled since the turn of the century, with more than a quarter of all ice lost over the last four decades, scientists have revealed.

Key data’s:

  • The Himalayan Mountains are home to the highest peak in Mount Everest at 29,029 feet, but also to the third largest deposit of ice and snow in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic.
  • Himalayan glaciers, often called the third pole are losing their ice fast. In fact, double as fast since the turn of the century than the 25 years prior to that, according to a new study.
  • Researchers from Columbia University claimed that the glaciers have lost more than a quarter of their ice in the last four decades.
  • The study, published in Science Advances journal claims, the Himalayas lose an average of 4 billion tonne ice from 1975-2000. 
  • The scientists combined declassified US spy satellite images from the mid-1970s with modern satellite data to create the first detailed, four-decade record of ice along the 2,000km (1,200-mile) mountain chain.
  • The scientists used this data to track the changes in 650 Himalayan glaciers. On average, the glacier surfaces sank by 22cm (8.6 inches) a year from 1975 to 2000. But the melting has accelerated, with an average loss of 43cm a year from 2000 to 2016.
  • After 2000, however, the glaciers started melting twice as fast, losing about 8 billion tonnes, every year up to 2016. That much ice can fill 3.2 million Olympic-sized swimming pools.
  • Lower-level glaciers have been shrinking 5 metres height annually since 2000. Temperatures in the region have risen by an average 1 degree Celsius between 1975-2000 and 2000-2016.

Reasons:

  • Global warming caused by human activities mainly for the drastic melting.
  • The glaciers are shrinking at similar rates all along the mountain chain, indicating a common cause.
  • Even glaciers in the highest mountains of the world are responding to global air temperature increases driven by the combustion of fossil fuels.
  • Threat to water supplies for hundreds of millions of people downstream across much of Asia.

Solution:

  • To stop this temperature, rise and to cool the planet, slowing down greenhouse gas emissions won’t be enough. 
  • Current conditions will have to reversed, which will be the greatest challenge for the human race in the coming years.

Himalayas and Climate Change:

  • The Himalaya support nearly half of humanity “Him” means snow and “alaya” means mountain.
  • The mountains of snow have also been called the third pole, since they are the third largest body of snow on our planet after the Antarctic and Arctic.
  • As melting of snow in the Arctic and Antarctic due to global warming and climate change is reported frequently, a study was done by a research team over Himalayas and the project entitled as “Climate Change at Third Pole“.
  • Presently 10% of the earth’s landmass is covered with snow, outside the polar region, Himalaya has the maximum concentration of glaciers (0.77%).
  • 04% of the Himalaya is covered with glaciers, with 30-40% additional area being covered with snow.
  • The glaciers of the Himalaya are the Third Pole. They feed the giant rivers of Asia, and support half of humanity. For centuries snow has supported human survival in Ladakh.
  • Climate change is changing this. 
  • Less snow is falling, so there is less moisture for growing crops. In village after village, we are witnessing the end of farming if snow melt on the fields was the only source of moisture.
  • Reduced snowfall also means less snow in glaciers, and less stream flow.
  • The shorter period of snowfall prevents the snow from turning into hard ice crystals. Therefore, more of the glacier is liable to melt when the summer comes.
  • Climate change has also led to rain, rather than snow, falling even at higher altitudes. This also accelerates the melting of glaciers.
  • Meantime, heavy rainfall which was unknown in the high-altitude desert has become more frequent, causing flash floods, washing away homes and fields, trees and livestock.

Important Links:

https://www.navdanya.org/climate-change/in-the-himalayas

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/jun/19/himalayan-glacier-melting-doubled-since-2000-scientists-reveal

https://www.downtoearth.org.in/video/climate-change/researchers-studied-us-spy-sat-images-of-himalayan-glaciers-what-they-found-is-alarming-65195

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/2019/06/himalayan-glaciers-melting-alarming-rate-spy-satellites-show/

https://www.iasipstnpsc.in/balsam-species/

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