Khumbu glacier found hotter than expected
A team of climate scientists from University of Leeds, University of Aberystwyth, University of Sheffield, Kathmandu University and the Himalayan Research Centre conducted a drill research of the Khumbu glacier in the Everest region. The research named Everest-region Drilling Programme came up with unexpected results regarding glacier temperatures. Glacial temperatures were found to be hotter than expected by the ice drill research.
The study makes it clear that global warming it taking its significant toll in the Himalayas of Nepal. Scientists have already pointed out that the impact of temperature rise in the Himalaya mountains is higher than the global average. The glacial study spanning for three years has made some dire projections about changing water flow trends in the snow-fed rivers and rivulets of Nepal due to snow and ice melting.
The study not only found the Khumbu glacier temperatures hotter than expected; it also predicted that air temperatures in Solukhumbu will continue to increase and precipitation will become more unpredictable. This is exactly the characteristic of global warming and climate change observed around the world. And given the similar nature of the Himalayan glaciers, this assumption may apply in other parts of Nepal Himalayas.
The temperature rise and resultant melting of ice is going to affect Nepal’s tourism. The research predicts that Khumbu Icefall and other mountain routes may be more dangerous for climbers. Formation of ponds and flooding events are also feared to pose risks to trekkers. Possibility of rock falls is also going to pose threats to trekkers and climbers.
Ice melt is expected to increase the flow of water in the snow-fed rivers in the short term. But in the long run, water flow is predicted to decrease. Eventually, in the worst case scenario, some rivulets may dry up. Till one point, river flow will increase, and after that, it will start declining. This will affect the hydropower plants, irrigation channels and water supply projects in the downstream areas.
It has been scientifically observed that permanent snowline has shifted upward, so has the prevalence of mountain animals and vegetation. Fast melting of glaciers has resulted in the formation of glacial lakes, many of which carry the potential risk of bursting. Such disasters have already happened in Nepal, Bhutan and China. This is not an alarmist assumption alone.
As the glaciers in the lower elevation are turning into lakes, existence of real glaciers is shifting to higher altitude, a trend known as ‘glacial retreat’. Glacial lakes are getting deeper and wider over the years. With the water volume increasing, there will come a situation where the natural dam of soil and small rocks will no longer be able to hold the water. In case of the bursting of the lake, one can only imagine the scale of devastations cause by the flash floods racing down the steep mountain slopes.
Warming ice is particularly vulnerable to climate change because even a small increase in temperature can trigger fast melting, says Dr. Duncan Quincey of Leeds University, who led the Khumbu research. Internal temperature has a significant impact on the complex dynamics of a glacier including water flow, water drainage and meltwater runoff. This determines the crucial part of water supply for the millions residing in the region, he adds.
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