Himalayan glacier melting rate has doubled—and this could affect 800 million people in Asia

(Eco Business, 21 Jun 2019) Potentially deadly floods for hundreds of millions of people in the short term, followed by acute water shortages within decades—this is what scientists behind a new study have projected.

Rising temperatures are causing glaciers that harbour 600 billion tonnes of ice in the Himalayas to melt more quickly in recent years, and scientists warn that this will lead to water shortages for 800 million people in future.

Accelerated melting may increase the flow of water during warm seasons to communities downstream in the short term, potentially causing destruction and deadly floods. But scientists behind a new study expect this to taper off “within decades” as glaciers shrink, potentially threatening water supplies.

The study analysed satellite images taken over 40 years of some 650 glaciers spanning 2,000km in the Himalayas.

The researchers, led by PhD candidate Joshua Maurer of Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, found that the glaciers lost an average of about 0.25m of ice each year between 1975 and 2000.

From 2000, however, the loss increased to about 0.5m a year following a more pronounced warming trend from the 1990s. The average amount lost in recent years has been about eight billion tonnes — the equivalent of 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools, said Maurer.

Temperatures from 2000 to 2016 were on average 1°C higher than in 1975 to 2000.

External link

Eco Business, 21 Jun 2019: Himalayan glacier melting rate has doubled—and this could affect 800 million people in Asia