The Himalayan glaciers are facing the full impact of climate change, reveals a new study. This has threatened water supplies for millions of people across the South Asian region.
Increasing temperatures and erratic weather patterns have been taking toll on the vulnerable glaciers. Experts say the glaciers depend on heavy precipitation to replenish ice on an annual basis.
According to researchers at the Columbia University who are behind the study, the glaciers have lost about 8 billion tons of water a year, which is equivalent to 3.2 million Olympic-size swimming pools. Joshua Maurer, the lead author of the study said this could potentially threaten water supplies for hundreds of millions of people across Asia. “As the ice melts it forms large glacial lakes, which are already impacting local communities. They can collapse and result in these huge outburst floods. And these are devastating for downstream communities.”
- years of satellite observations across India, China, Nepal and Bhutan were reviewed by the group of researchers. They found that the Himalayan glaciers have been retreating rapidly since 2000 due to an average 1 degree Celsius temperature rise in the region. Maurer said atmospheric warming appears to really be the dominant driver of ice loss. “Himalayan glaciers may have lost as much as a quarter of their enormous mass over the past four decades,” he added.
Duncan Quincey, a professor at University of Leeds said such rapid melt rates will mean summer floods become more frequent as river discharge is increased. But he said that the long-term prospect is one of drought as teh glacier resevoir becomes depleted.
Melting glaciers will eventually result in a massive drought. Experts explain that as rivers flood, people, crops and livestock drown and hydroelectric plants get disrupted. And weaker monsoons mean less rainfall for the country as a whole, leading to drought. In general, melting glaciers means less flowing water and more drought.