Study on Melting of Himalayan Glaciers

Published: June 21, 2019

A study published in the Science Advances journal analyzed four decades of ice loss for 650 of the largest glaciers across a 2,000 km transect in the Himalayas. The study compared data obtained by Cold War-era spy satellites with images from modern stereo satellites and makes the following observations:

  • Himalayan glaciers have lost more than a quarter of their ice mass since 1975. The melting is occurring twice as fast after the turn of the century as average temperatures rose.
  • Of the total ice mass present in 1975, about 87% remained in 2000 and 72% remained in 2016.
  • The study also observed similar mass loss rates across subregions and a doubling of the average rate of loss during 2000 2016 relative to the 1975 2000 interval.
  • The study asserts that rising temperatures are responsible for the accelerating loss of the ice mass.
  • More adversely affected regions are in India. For example, the rate of loss of ice thickness in the Spiti Lahaul region has increased three times in 2000-2016, vis-a-vis 1975-2000 whereas West Nepal has seen the rate of loss increase just 1.4 times in the same period.

Global Phenomenon

It isn t just the Himalayan glaciers which are adversely affected by the rising temperatures. A study by the University of Alaska Fairbanks has revealed that the Canadian Arctic permafrost has thawed 70 years before expected and the rate of the thaw was up to 240% more between 2003-2016 than the rate between 1979-2000. The rapid thaw was attributed to a series of unusually warm summers leading to a melting of the ice cover frozen for at least 1,000 years.

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