Mount Everest’s highest glacier has lost 2,000 years of ice in just 25 years

2022-05-04 0 By

The climate crisis enveloping the planet is affecting the deepest parts of the ocean and the most remote parts of the planet.New research suggests it’s also causing changes at the highest points in the world.Scientists studying the South Col of Mount Everest’s highest glacier report that ice is rapidly losing as global temperatures rise, further exposing and weakening the ice due to thinning snow cover.This will make climbing Everest even more challenging because of the exposed bedrock.Of greater concern is the potential impact on the people who rely on these glaciers for drinking water and agriculture.Increased avalanche risk is another issue.Above: South Col Glacier ice core sample location (red arrow) and Balcony weather station (yellow arrow).Mariusz Potocki, a glacier chemist from the University of Maine and lead author of the study, said: “Climate projections for the Himalayas indicate continued warming and glacier mass loss, and even the top of Mount Everest is being affected by anthropogenic warming.”Using data from weather stations and ice samples — including ice cores taken from 8,020 meters (26,312 feet) above sea level, the highest level of its kind — the researchers’ models showed that decades-long ice deposits were being lost each year.Snow loss is critical, the team reports.As sublimation occurs — climate change accelerates the conversion of snow directly into steam — the ice below is further exposed, reflecting less solar radiation back.The study estimated that about 2 meters (6.6 feet) of water is lost each year.The new study is part of the ongoing 2019 National Geographic and Rolex Permanent Planet Everest Expedition, whose mission is to investigate how climate change is affecting the Southern Col and the broader Hindu Kush Himalayan glacier network.”It answers one of the big questions posed by our 2019 NGS/ Rolex Everest expedition — whether the highest glacier on Earth is under the influence of anthropogenic climate change,” said Paul Mayewski, a glaciologist at the University of Maine.”The answer is yes, and it has been significant since the late 1990s.”The researchers’ model estimates that the glacier has thinned by about 55 meters (180 feet) over the past 25 years, which is 80 times faster than ice that formed over the past few thousand years.While the changes on Everest have been the most dramatic since the late 1990s, the warming induced changes appear to have been occurring since the 1950s.In addition to rising temperatures, scientists have pointed to falling relative humidity and strong winds as reasons for the heavy snowfall.Currently, snow is disappearing much faster than it can be replaced.This is happening at the highest point in the world as temperatures rise, a warning for the world’s glaciers.Projections suggest the trend will only go in one direction, and even glaciers as high as the South Col could disappear by mid-century — another stark reminder of how we have permanently changed the face of the planet.”Everest’s highest glacier has become a sentinel for this delicate balance and proves that even the earth’s roof is affected by anthropogenic source warming,” the researchers wrote in their published paper.