An article in today’s Guardian reports that glaciologists at ETH Zurich have been studying glaciers in the European Alps and they predict that to thirds of the ice in these glaciers will have melted by 2100, as climate change forces up temperatures.
The researchers said the loss of the glaciers would have a big impact on water availability for farming and hydroelectricity, especially during droughts, and affect nature and tourism.
Another study on the ice fields in the Himalayas found that these also will melt, with serious consequences for almost 2 billion people in the valleys below. In addition, to the glacier concern, Nepal is sending a group of expert climbers to remeasure the height of Mount Everest amid concerns that the devastating 2015 earthquake in the country caused the peak to shrink. It is the first time the country has sent its own government-appointed team to conduct a survey of the world’s highest mountain. Officially, Everest stands at 29,029ft – but this figure was calculated by an Indian team back in 1954. Since then its actual height has been widely debated.
Another study reported in 2009, showed that Switzerland’s glaciers had reduced by 12% of their volume in the previous 10 years. Switzerland’s glaciers equate to about two thirds of the volume of Lake Geneva. Similar reports come from researchers studying glaciers in the Andes.
A Swiss glacier
The Himalayan glaciers may have an even more important function, as they are reducing at a similar rate to those in the European Alps, despite being higher and therefore colder. More than 700 million people in India, Bangladesh and Pakistan get their water from rivers that come from the Himalayan glaciers. India has been ranked the most vulnerable country to climate change by risk analysis company Verisk Maplecroft. 113 million people in the country are vulnerable to dangerous levels of flooding. More than 300 million are vulnerable to drought and more than 700 million to extreme local storms. The melting glaciers just compound all these issues.
Glaciers are unique because they are reservoirs of fresh water, have sheer mass and their ability to move, as they flow like very slow rivers.
Financial Times report states that glaciers have been melting twice as fast as they were during 1975-2000. This was taken from a report on 19th June 2019 in Science Advances:
entitled “Acceleration of ice loss across the Himalayas over the past 40 years” by J.M. Maurer, J.M. Schaefer, S. Rupper and A. Corley. The abstract for the article states:
“Himalayan glaciers supply meltwater to densely populated catchments in South Asia, and regional observations of glacier change over multiple decades are needed to understand climate drivers and assess resulting impacts on glacier-fed rivers. Here, we quantify changes in ice thickness during the intervals 1975–2000 and 2000–2016 across the Himalayas, using a set of digital elevation models derived from cold war–era spy satellite film and modern stereo satellite imagery. We observe consistent ice loss along the entire 2000-km transect for both intervals and find a doubling of the average loss rate during 2000–2016 [−0.43 ± 0.14 m w.e. year−1 (meters of water equivalent per year)] compared to 1975–2000 (−0.22 ± 0.13 m w.e. year−1). The similar magnitude and acceleration of ice loss across the Himalayas suggests a regionally coherent climate forcing, consistent with atmospheric warming and associated energy fluxes as the dominant drivers of glacier change.”
Imja Tso, a glacial lake in the Mt. Everest region, did not exist on trekking maps 30 years ago. Today it is 2 kilometers long and the region continues to warm. Credit: Kunda Dixit/Nepali Times
A Guardian report from Iceland about the loss of a glacier there, written by Andri Snaer Magnason, about how they are mourning the loss of the OK glacier.
A plaque has been developed to remember the OK glacier, which has now lost its status as a glacier:
According to current trends, all glaciers in Iceland will disappear in the next 200 years. So the plaque for Ok could be the first of 400 in Iceland alone. The glacier Snæfellsjökull, where Jules Verne began his Journey to the Centre of the Earth, is likely to be gone in the next 30 years and that will be a significant loss. This glacier is for Iceland what Fuji is for Japan.