Saturday, July 04, 2009

Nowhere is global warming felt more acutely than in the Himalayas, where ice and snow are retreating

Melting caps
Nowhere is global warming felt more acutely than in the Himalayas, where ice and snow are retreating.

STANDING in the Himalayan valley of Langtang, Rinjin Dorje Lama remembers where he used to play as a child in the 1960s.

"When I was a kid, it was a lot longer," said Lama, pointing at the Lirung glacier surrounded by snowy peaks on Nepal's northern border with Tibet. "We used to play on the, glacier, and it came right down to the monastery, but now it's about 2km further back."

Temperatures in the Himalayas are rising by around 0.06~C annually, according to a long-term study by the Nepalese department of hydrology. The rate is far above the global average given last year by United Nations scientists, who said surface temperatures have risen by a total of 0.74C over the past 100 years.

"I don't really understand why the glacier has gone so far back, but I am told it's due to global warming," said Lama, whose weather-beaten face makes him look older than his 57 years.

Lama has witnessed other changes in the roadless valley, 60km northwest of Kathmandu, where sure-footed ponies remain the quickest form of transport. "I feel that the sun is getting stronger, and in the past there used to be a lot more snow in winter. We used to get up to 2m in the winter, and it would stay for weeks. Last winter we only had 2cm."

On top of unpredictable weather, other dangers are increasing in Nepal's mountains because of climate change. As the meltwater flows off the glacier, lakes begin to form and grow. When the pressure becomes too great, the lake walls burst and release millions of cubic tonnes of water that can wash away people, villages and arable land.

Researchers at the Nepal-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) have said five major glacial lake floods have hit Nepal since 1970, as well as at least two in Tibet and one in Bhutan.

Ang Tsering Sherpa, who grew up in Nepal's Everest region, has observed the growth of one glacial lake with growing concern. "A small pond first appeared close to the Imja glacier in about 1962," said Sherpa, who owns a trekking and expedition company in Kathmandu.

Last year, a research team from Japan meas- ured the Imja lake as being 1.Tkm, 900m wide and 92m deep.

"If that lake bursts, it will be like a tsunami," said Sherpa, who estimates that the Imja glacier has been retreating at a rate of 60m per year. "Imagine the damage that will be caused by a lake emptying within minutes into a well-inhabited valley. The loss of life will be huge."

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) calculates there are 2,000 glacial lakes forming in Nepal and around 20 are in danger of bursting.

Mountain dwellers are seeing at first hand the effects of global warming, but the changing climate will eventually have dire consequences for a much wider section of Asia's population.

Himalayan snow and ice is a massive freshwater reserve that feeds nine of Asia's major waterways, including the Indus, Ganges and Yellow rivers.

"In the long term, water scarcity will become a big problem," said Sandeep Chamling Rai, WWF climate change officer. "There will eventually be a tipping point where the amount of water from the glaciers is hugely reduced, which will result in loss of water resources for people downstream who rely on these Himalayan-fed rivers."

The ICIMOD said in August last year that climate change posed a serious threat to essential water resources in the Himalayas, putting the livelihoods of 1.3 billion people at risk.

Back in the Langtang Valley, where around 700 people and 4,000 yaks live, Lama can only watch as the ice and snow retreat from around his home.

"I am very worried, but what can we do. We are not contributing to global warming but we feel its effects. I am scared there will be no snow and ice in these mountains within the next 15 years."- AFP


I'm Hernadi-Key said...

Tips to save our environment

Did You Know??

1. Guns embed electrical plugs, although, when the electronic device is turned off = 40-50% saving of electricity costs you must pay each month. And that also, reduce the heat arising from an electronic device that spread to global warming.
So release all electrical plugs when you go or not used.

2. Plastic bags take 1000 years to decompose in the landfill (landfills). Around 300 million plastic bags were thrown away each year in Indonesia. Not to mention that dumped in the river behind the house and where they should not. 10kg paper prepared in the newspaper selling flea market, which requires 1 tree, takes 10 years to be big. Imagine what happens to illegal logging.

How many trees have been cut down for you? Imagine how they make the world hotter?
So bring own bags from home when you shop, try calculating how much you save when you plastic shopping once...?? ?

3. When you buy 1 liter of mineral water bought in supermarkets = 5 liters of water. Ask why?, Because at the factory, to cool the hot plastic bottles new printed, requires 5 liters of water.
Listing bottle what is safe to use as a bottle of water? See the sign below the bottle, look for 2.3 or 4 numbers. Number 2 than that, they're not safe, because you eat plastic!!


Ganga is also expected to dry out if the glaciers continue to melt like this. Himalayan glaciers are in real trouble.


year 2010 is expected to be world's hottest year.

vullysrujan said...

i agree with hernadi ,i am indian i know exactly the changes that are taking place in climate ,leave alone ganga there is news that amazon is suffering from drought .i am relatively new to blogging so anybody who care for our mother nature and tigers please help me out spred the message

going green articles said...

It is just a wonderful post to save the environment. Thanks for the great stuff.

plumbing said...

I definitely agree in this blog. there is no place suffering much in global warming than Himalayas.

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