by Staff Writers
Zurich, Switzerland (SPX) Apr 26, 2012
Ever since the false prognoses of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the Himalayan glaciers have been a focus of public and scientific debate. The gaps in our knowledge of glaciers in the Himalayan region have hindered accurate statements and prognoses.
An international team of researchers headed by glaciologists from the University of Zurich and with the involvement of scientists from Geneva now outlines the current state of knowledge of glaciers in the Himalayas in a study published in Science. The scientists confirm that the shrinkage scenarios for Himalayan glaciers published in the last IPCC report were exaggerated.
Glacier area 20 percent smaller than assumed
Less shrinkage than predicted
The researchers recorded average length decreases of 15 to 20 metres and area decreases of 0.1 to 0.6 percent per year in recent decades. Furthermore, the glacier surfaces lowered by around 40 centimetres a year.
"The detected length changes and area and volume losses correspond to the global average," explains Bolch, summarizing the new results. "The majority of the Himalayan glaciers are shrinking, but much less rapidly than predicted earlier."
For the regions in the northwestern Himalayas and especially in the Karakoram Range, the researchers noted very heterogeneous behaviour in the glaciers. Many of them are dynamically unstable and prone to rapid advances (so called "surges") that largely occur independently of the climatic conditions.
For the last decade on average, even a slight volume increase was detected. Based on their analyses, the researchers assume that glacier shrinkage will not have a major impact on the water drainage of large rivers like the Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra in the coming decades.
Greater variability and menacing flooding of glacial lakes
Bolch and his colleagues also see a very serious threat to the local population in newly formed or rapidly growing glacial lakes. The deluge of water and debris from potential outbursts of these lakes could have devastating consequences for low-lying regions. According to the scientists, increased efforts are urgently needed to monitor the lakes as well as changes in the glaciers and the climate in the Himalayas.
The study was conducted as part of the EU project High Noon and the European Space Agency project Glaciers_cci. Literature: T. Bolch, A. Kulkarni, A. Kaab, C. Huggel, F. Paul, J.G. Cogley, H. Frey, J.S. Kargel, K. Fujita, M. Scheel, S. Bajracharya, M. Stoffel. The State and Fate of Himalayan Glaciers. Science. April 20, 2012. doi: 10.1126/science.1215828.
University of Zurich
Beyond the Ice Age
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CU-Boulder study shows Greenland may be slip-sliding away due to surface lake melt
Boulder CO (SPX) Apr 18, 2012
Like snow sliding off a roof on a sunny day, the Greenland Ice Sheet may be sliding faster into the ocean due to massive releases of meltwater from surface lakes, according to a new study by the University of Colorado Boulder-based Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences. Such lake drainages may affect sea-level rise, with implications for coastal communities, accordin ... read more
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