New research shows the world’s highest peak is metling, probably due to global warming

New research shows glaciers on Mount Everest have decreased by 13% over the past 50 years, while the snowline has shifted upward several hundred feet. Weather data reveals the larger Everest region has experienced warmer temperatures and less snowfall since the early 1990s.

The research was presented by member of the study team Sudeep Thakuri at the American Geophysical Union‘s meeting in Cancún, Mexico last week.

Man-made greenhouse gasses may be responsible for these changes, though a direct link has not yet been established, Thakuri cautioned in a statement released by the AGU.

Thakuri’s team used satellite imagery and topographic maps to track glacial movements, and used hydro-meteorological data from the Nepal Climate Observatory and Nepal’s Department of Hydrology to track temperature and precipitation changes.

Glacier loss will not only change the famous face of the world’s highest peak, it will have more serious consequences beyond the region: “The Himalayan glaciers and ice caps are considered a water tower for Asia since they store and supply water downstream during the dry season,” said Thakuri. “Downstream populations are dependent on the melt water for agriculture, drinking, and power production.

The findings come as no surprise to sherpas and members of the climbing community who have observed the changes from the ground for many years.  Climate change has made Mount Everest increasingly more dangerous to climb, say sherpas. Apa Sherpa, who holds the record for reaching the summit of Mount Everest more times than any other person;  "The snow along the slopes had melted, exposing the bare rocks underneath, which made it very difficult for us to walk up the slope as there was no snow to dig our crampons into” he told AFP after his twentieth ascent.

Thakuri’s report follows research from 2012 that found the majority of the Tibetan plateau’s glaciers are shrinking rapidly. This study was based on 30 years of satellite and field measurement by China’s leading glaciologist Yao Tandong at the Chinese Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Tibetan Research.

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