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According to a new study published in the latest issue of the journal The Cryosphere, the glaciers that make up the towering Mount Everest will disappear by 2100 as a result of global warming caused by man-made greenhouse gas emissions. A team of researchers from France, the Netherlands, and Nepal found that Everest may suffer a 70-99 percent loss of its year-round ice and snow accumulation.
The warning of the massive melting comes from hydrologist Joesph Shea, a researcher at the National Center for Mountain Development in Nepal and lead author of the study. He stated over one billion people downstream from the glacier melts will be affected by this environmental tragedy by the end of the 21st century, causing panic and chaos in the eastern Northern Hemisphere.
To predict how devastating this could be for billions across southern Asia, the team developed future climate models based on current observations regarding the melting rate of Everest’s glaciers over the last 50 years. The study revealed that the current rate of the increase in the Earth’s average temperature will lead to at least a 70 percent loss in Everest’s glaciers.
Although only two percent of water is locked in glaciers, these mammoth ice sheets hold nearly 70 percent of the world’s freshwater. Ocean desalinization is not much of a concern for scientists, considering the relatively small amount of fresh water it could release compared to the ice caps. Nevertheless, the most devastating problem is widespread flooding that will displace nearly 15 percent of the world’s population.
With current measurements, scientists have found that the freezing altitude on Everest is around 3,200 meters in the winter months, and 5,500 meters in the summer. The study’s co-author, Walter Immerzeel from Utrecht University, stated historical climate models and the rate at which glaciers are melting will cause the freezing altitude on Everest to increase by 800-1,200 meters, a considerable jump. With such a a decrease in the surface area and depth of ice, nearly 90 percent of the largest mountain in world will be exposed. According to climate models, glaciers in Nepal near the base of Everest have lost 20 percent of their volume since the 1960s.
Global warming has become more of a threat to Asia since the 1960s than any other country. China and other countries in southern Asia began to heavily industrialize during this time period, burning more and more fossil fuels, and releasing carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Southern Asia will continue to be the biggest contributor of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere through the end of century as nations in this region become more industrially advanced. As India becomes one of the biggest industrialized nations on the planet, the melting of Everest’s glaciers will only get worse.
Shea said the models show that even if humans lowered their carbon footprint and began to use more environmentally friendly means of producing energy, 70 percent of the glaciers on Everest will still melt. This is due to the fact that climate change has what scientists call an “avalanche effect.” Once atmospheric pollution levels increase, the encroachment of global warming is nearly impossible to stop or even slow down. Though, reducing carbon emissions should at least keep the glaciers from completely disappearing by 2100.
Trees and other plants are a great tool to use against greenhouse gases. Since they absorb carbon dioxide in air, they are able to help cleanse and rejuvenate the atmosphere. However, current trends in deforestation are causing the carbon dioxide content in the Earth’s atmosphere to increase, stifling attempts to slow global warming.
The study brings one of the biggest planetary concerns to the forefront of discussion. Even if small steps are taken to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that are discharged into the atmosphere, it will only prolong the inevitable Everest glacier loss.
By Alex Lemieux:
New York Times: Climate Model Suggests Everest Glaciers Could Nearly Disappear
Asian Scientist: Everest Glaciers May Vanish By 2100
Lighthouse News Daily: Everest Glaciers in Danger of Melting
Daily Times Gazette: Mt. Everest’s To Lose Beauty As Its Glaciers Are Predicted To Melt By 2100: Study Finds
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