FEB 10, 2019 8:07 AM PST

Himalaya, meet climate change

Great emphasis has been placed on the impact the climate change has on the oceans, the atmosphere, the poles – but a new study investigates the consequences of climate change from a different angle: mountains. The study takes a look at some of the most renown mountains on Earth, including Everest and K2 and determines that with a rise in 2 degrees Celsius, half of the glaciers could be gone by 2100.

According to the study, glaciers in the Hindu Kush and Himalaya could disappear unless we are able to successfully reduce carbon dioxide emissions – and fast. These mountain ranges hold more frozen fields of ice than anywhere else on our planet (with the exception of the poles) – making them extremely vulnerable to melting from rising temperatures and air pollution. Air pollution is particularly bad in the region due to dense human populations; when pollutants like dust and black coal settle on the glaciers, it heightens the albedo effect and increases the rate of melting.

Apart from the aesthetic shock that would come from seeing the famous snowy peaks as naked rock, the melting of such vast ice fields would also have serious consequences for the 250 million people spread over Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal and Pakistan who depend on glacial flow for their water.

"This is the climate crisis you haven't heard of," said lead author, Philippus Wester from the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD). "Impacts on people in the region, already one of the world's most fragile and hazard-prone mountain regions, will range from worsened air pollution to an increase in extreme weather events. But it's the projected reductions in pre-monsoon river flows and changes in the monsoon that will hit hardest, throwing urban water systems and food and energy production off kilter."

The Himalaya glaciers feed rivers that provides millions of people with water. Photo: Pixabay

The glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya are literally the life source for some of the biggest rivers in the world, including the Ganges, Indus, Yellow, Mekong and Irrawaddy. Rapid melting and later drying-up of the glaciers would not only devastate all the communities who live in the mountains and river valleys below, but also everyone who depends on those communities for agriculture, hydropower, and other resources.

"For me, the interesting question then is what happens in these major river basins in the years when the rains fail? Without the ice reserve there in the mountains to top the rivers up through the melt season, droughts will be harsher on those living downstream,” said Dr. Hamish Pritchard from the British Antarctic Survey, who was not associated with the report. "This is a region where water is a hot topic politically, economically and in day to day life, and harsher droughts could be a severe shock to an already fragile system. I read this report as a warning to prepare for these shocks."

Sources: BBC News, The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment

About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
You May Also Like
DEC 31, 2020
Earth & The Environment
Land subsidence projections for 2040
DEC 31, 2020
Land subsidence projections for 2040
Results from a meta-analysis literature review of global land subsidence have been reported in a Policy Forum of Science ...
JAN 13, 2021
Plants & Animals
Dwarf Giraffes Observed for the First Time Ever
JAN 13, 2021
Dwarf Giraffes Observed for the First Time Ever
The name “dwarf giraffe” certainly seems like an oxymoron, which is why scientists were shocked to observe t ...
JAN 28, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Using supercomputers to predict the next massive earthquake
JAN 28, 2021
Using supercomputers to predict the next massive earthquake
A new prototype called RSQSim (Rate-State earthquake simulator) offers new insight into predicting massive earthquakes i ...
FEB 01, 2021
Earth & The Environment
Unwrapping the mei-yu's patterns
FEB 01, 2021
Unwrapping the mei-yu's patterns
Research published last month in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Physics tracks the Yangtze River during the in ...
FEB 19, 2021
Microbiology
Weed Killers May Raise Levels of Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes in Soil
FEB 19, 2021
Weed Killers May Raise Levels of Antibiotic-Resistant Microbes in Soil
Chemicals that are designed to kill weeds, known as herbicides, can apparently raise the levels of antibiotic resistant ...
MAR 26, 2021
Plants & Animals
Studies Confirm that Bottlenose Dolphins Vocalize to Synchronize Behaviors
MAR 26, 2021
Studies Confirm that Bottlenose Dolphins Vocalize to Synchronize Behaviors
The ability to communicate with one another to coordinate behaviors contributes to the success of social mammals, like b ...
Loading Comments...