Asian Glaciers at Risk

Researchers have found Himalayan glaciers could be very sensitive to future warming, and that sustained ice loss through the 21st century is likely. The model used by the team shows that glacier volume could be reduced between 70% and 99% by 2100.

Increased temperatures will not only increase the rates of snow and ice melt, but can also result in a change of precipitation from snow to rain at critical elevations, where glaciers are concentrated. Together, these act to reduce glacier growth and increase the area exposed to melt.

Glaciers in High Mountain Asia, which includes the Himalayas, contain the largest volume of ice outside the polar regions.

Changes in glacier volume can impact the availability of water, affecting agriculture and hydro-power generation. Initially water flows increase but ongoing retreat leads to reduced melt-water in the warmer months when rainfall is scarce. Glacier retreat can also result in lakes dammed by glacial debris. These dams can collapse causing catastrophic floods.

European Geosciences Union

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