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Himalayan Glaciers Anticipated To Lose 75% Of Ice By 2100

Himalayan glaciers anticipated to lose 75% of ice by 2100 as scientists issues a grave warning about the alarming rate at which they are melting. According to a report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) based in Kathmandu, these glaciers could lose up to 75 percent of their volume by the end of this century.

Kenzo Norman
Jun 22, 2023340 Shares12594 Views
Himalayan glaciers anticipated to lose 75% of ice by 2100as scientists issues a grave warning about the alarming rate at which they are melting. According to a report by the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) based in Kathmandu, these glaciers could lose up to 75 percent of their volume by the end of this century.
This unprecedented melting poses significant threats such as dangerous flooding and water shortages for the approximately 2 billion people residing downstream of the rivers originating from this mountainous region.
The report emphasizes the urgent need for drastic reductions in greenhouse gas emissions to mitigate the situation. Failure to do so would result in an increased likelihood of flash floods and avalanches in the forthcoming years. It is crucial to address this critical issue to safeguard the lives and well-being of the communities dependent on these rivers for their water resources.
The report also highlights that the impact of melting glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalayas extends beyond the immediate downstream regions. Approximately 240 million people residing in the Himalayan region itself would face challenges in accessing fresh water due to this alarming trend. Furthermore, an additional 1.65 billion people living downstream of the 12 rivers originating from the Himalayas would also experience significant disruptions in their water supply.
Amina Maharjan, a migration specialist and one of the report’s authors said in a statement that:
The people living in these mountains who have contributed next to nothing to global warming are at high risk due to climate change. Current adaptation efforts are wholly insufficient and we are extremely concerned that without greater support, these communities will be unable to cope.- Amina Maharjan, a migration specialist
The cryosphere, encompassing the snow and ice-covered regions of our planet, has been severely impacted by the effects of climate change, as highlighted in several previous reports. The consequences of this global phenomenon are particularly striking in these vulnerable areas.
One notable example is the disheartening situation on Mount Everest, where recent research has revealed an alarming trend. Over the past three decades alone, the glaciers on Mount Everest have witnessed a staggering loss of ice equivalent to what would typically take 2,000 years. This rapid and unprecedented ice melt underscores the magnitude of the climate crisis and its profound impact on even the most iconic and remote frozen landscapes.
“We map out for the first time the linkages between cryosphere change with water, ecosystems and society in this mountain region,” Maharjan said.
The disappearance of Himalayan glaciers has accelerated by 65 percent since 2010 compared to the previous decade. The study reveals that the region's glaciers, snow, and permafrost have undergone unprecedented and mostly irreversible changes due to global warming.
If the global temperature rises by 1.5 degrees Celsius or 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, glaciers in the entire Himalayan region are projected to lose between 30 percent and 50 percent of their volume by 2100. However, the extent of melting will vary based on the specific location.
Under the current climate policies, which are expected to result in approximately 3 degrees Celsius of warming, the Eastern Himalayas (including Nepal and Bhutan) are likely to experience the loss of up to 75 percent of their ice. If warming reaches 4 degrees Celsius, this percentage increases to 80 percent.
Lead author of the report, Philippus Wester, an environmental scientist and ICIMOD fellow, emphasized the urgency of the situation, stating, “We’re losing the glaciers, and we’re losing them in 100 years time.”

Himalayan glaciers could lose 75% of ice by 2100, report says

Looking At The Big Picture

The Hindu Kush Himalaya, spanning over 3,500 km (2,175 miles) across Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan, has posed a challenge for scientists in assessing the impact of climate change. Unlike the European Alps and North America's Rocky Mountains, which have a long historical record of field measurements to track glacier fluctuations, the Hindu Kush Himalaya region lacked such comprehensive data.
However, a significant development occurred in 2019 when the United States declassified satellite images captured by spy satellites dating back to 1970. These images provided a valuable scientific baseline and enabled researchers to gain insights into the changes taking place in the region's glaciers.
Furthermore, in the past five years, advancements in satellite technology have continued, and field research efforts have been intensified. These developments have significantly enhanced scientists' understanding of the ongoing transformations in the Hindu Kush Himalaya. The report, which incorporates data until December 2022, benefits from these recent advancements and sheds light on the current state of the region.
When compared with a 2019 ICIMOD assessment of the region, “there’s a much higher level of confidence now in these findings”, said Wester.
“We have a better sense of what the loss will be through to 2100 at different levels of global warming.”
The enhanced understanding of the Hindu Kush Himalaya region has sparked deep concern for the inhabitants residing there. According to the report, the water flows in the 12 river basins of the region, including prominent ones like the Ganges, Indus, and Mekong, are projected to reach their peak around the middle of this century. This has far-reaching implications for the more than 1.65 billion people who rely on these water resources for their sustenance and livelihoods.
“While it may sound like we’ll have more water because glaciers are melting at an increased rate, too frequently it will arise as floods instead of a steady flow,” added Wester.
According to the study, a total of 200 glacier lakes situated in these mountains have been identified as hazardous, indicating a potential rise in glacial lake outburst floods within the region by the close of this century. However, as water resources reach their maximum levels and begin to decline, the available supplies will gradually diminish.
“Once ice melts in these regions, it’s very difficult to put it back to its frozen form,” said Pam Pearson, director of the International Cryosphere Climate Initiative, who was not involved with the report.
She added: “It’s like a big ship in the ocean. Once the ice starts going, it’s very hard to stop. So, with glaciers, especially the big glaciers in the Himalayas, once they start losing mass, that’s going to continue for a really long time before it can stabilise.”
Pearson emphasized the utmost significance of restricting global warming to the agreed-upon target of 1.5 degrees Celsius, as established during the 2015 Paris climate conference, to safeguard the Earth's snow, permafrost, and ice.
“I get the sense that most policymakers don’t take the goal seriously but, in the cryosphere, irreversible changes are already happening,” she said.

Conclusion

To address these impending changes, governments in the region are taking proactive measures. China is actively engaged in bolstering the nation's water resources to ensure long-term stability. Simultaneously, Pakistan is implementing early warning systems specifically designed to detect and alert the occurrence of glacial lake outburst floods.
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