Himalayan glaciers

ice disappearance

The Himalayas are the most famous in the world since they contain the peak of Everest, this peak being the highest in the world. The Himalayan glaciers which is suffering the serious consequences of the increase in global temperatures due to climate change. The melting of the Himalayan glaciers can have serious consequences for humans, flora and fauna.

In this article we are going to tell you everything you need to know about the current situation of the Himalayan glaciers and its serious consequences.

Himalayan glacier melting

Himalayan glaciers

According to a study published in the journal Science Advances, Ice loss from Himalayan glaciers has accelerated since 2000: About half a meter of ice melts each year due to increases in temperatures of up to 1°C. The consequences are multiple, such as floods or water shortages.

The research contained in the study looked at the changes that have occurred in the Himalayan region over the past forty years. This happened in images obtained by the American spy satellite KH-9 Hexagon, known as Big Bird, which was used during the so-called Cold War and was declassified in 2011. In addition to these images, additional images acquired by NASA in India have been added. , China, Nepal and Bhutan.

Some images are relevant because they give the clearest picture of "how fast and why the Himalayan glaciers have been melting during this time." Joshua Maurer, lead author of the paper at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Observatory, explained it at the time.

For the study, 650 Himalayan glaciers were analyzed. It represents 55% of all the ice in the region and covers an area of ​​2.000 kilometers from west to east. The observed progress is, for example, that in 1975 the Himalayan region it was 87% covered with ice, held constant in 2000, and fell to 72% in 2016. In other words, it has lost a quarter of its mass over the course of forty years.

Between 1975 and 2000, when temperatures increased due to climate change, the ice lost 25 centimeters per year, and it accelerated markedly throughout the 1990s, and in the following decade, with the start of the new millennium, in the amount that increased in this way, he estimated that 50 cm per year have since been lost.

Consequences of the melting of the Himalayan glaciers

melting of the Himalayan glaciers

Furthermore, snowmelt in the Himalayas has been observed to mainly affect lower altitudes. Ice loss is up to five meters per year. This represents a loss of approximately 8 million tons of water. The consequences are dire since it could affect about 800 million people. Water scarcity means problems for irrigation, hydroelectric power, and access to clean drinking water and healthy sanitation. Although the thaw produces water that circulates freely through the land, the so-called runoff, will generate water scarcity in the medium and long term.

Of the reason, there are mainly two factors. On the one hand, the increase in temperature has caused changes in rainfall in the region, with a decrease in some areas and an increase in others. On the other hand, fossil fuels and biomass are burned on a large scale in the Asian region, whose ash ends up on the surface of the snow, absorbing solar energy and powering and accelerating melting.

Climate Change

Unfortunately, the melting of the Himalayan glaciers is not the only reason climate change is affecting the region. Simulations designed and run by researchers at the University of Potsdam show that thousands of lakes are at dangerous risk of flooding. This happens because snow and ice continue to melt as global temperatures continue to rise.

The melting caused the collapse of the moraine, a barrier of sediments and rocks held together by ice. This creates what the researchers call a "glacial rupture flood." By running millions of computer simulations using topographic maps and satellite survey data, the researchers found about 5,000 lakes with unstable moraines that could generate these floods.

Most glacial lakes are found in sparsely populated areas. However, communities living downstream can be affected by these floods, which can also affect agricultural land and potentially damage infrastructure.

Himalayan Features


The total length of the Himalayas is about 2.400 kilometers, from east to west, from the Indus River through the countries of East Asia and Central Asia, to the Yarlung Zangbo River. Its width is 161-241 km. Its northwest is the Karakoram Mountains and the Hindu Kush Mountains, the north is the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and the south is the Indian Gangetic Plain. It covers 75% of the territory of Nepal. In general, it consists of three parallel mountain ranges: the Greater Himalayas, the highest and northern, the Lesser Himalayas and the outer Himalayas. This mountain range has 14 peaks above 8.000 meters above sea level, and it is estimated that more than 100 of them are above 7.200 meters above sea level.

Mount Everest is the most famous, but its peaks include Kanchenjunga, Nanga Parbat, Annapurna, K2, Kailash, and Manaslu. There are some 15.000 glaciers in the entire mountain range, and their capacity is 12.000 cubic kilometers of fresh water. In the Great Himalayas, the mountains have an average elevation of 20,000 feet, or just over 6,000 meters; there are Everest, K2 and Kanchenjunga. In the Lesser Himalayas south of the Greater Himalayas, mountains range in elevation from 3657 meters to 4572 meters, while the outer Himalayas have an average elevation of 914 meters to 1219 meters. Some important rivers in central and western Asia flow through the Himalayas.

The Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra, Yellow, Mekong, Nu, and Brahmaputra are particularly prominent. The three main water systems of Asia, the Indus, the Ganges-Brahmaputra, and the Yangtze, originate from this mountain range. These rivers help regulate Earth's climate (especially in the central continents and the Indian subcontinent) and often carry large amounts of sediment. Also, there are hundreds of lakes in the Himalayas, but the vast majority of the lakes are below 5.000 meters above sea level.

I hope that with this information you can learn more about the Himalayan glaciers and their current state.

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