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Report: Mount Everest snow and ice melting at increasing rate

By JohnThomas Didymus     May 16, 2013 in Environment
Researchers announced at the Meeting of the Americas in Cancun, Mexico, May 14, that snow and ice on Mount Everest and the neighboring area was melting at an increasing rate. According to the study, global warming is affecting the Everest environment
The researchers, presenting the results of the study at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Cancun, Mexico, said they used satellite imagery, topographic maps and weather data to reconstruct the glacial history of Mount Everest and the surrounding 713-square-mile Sagarmatha National Park area.
LA Times reports the researchers said statistical analysis reveal that the glaciers in the national park are retreating at an increasing rate.
According to Live Science, Sudeep Thakuri, a graduate student at the University of Milan in Italy, who led the research, said increasing temperatures have caused glaciers in the Mount Everest region to shrink by 1,300 feet (400m) or 13 percent in the last 50 years. The study also found that the snowline has receded in the same period by 590 feet (180 meters).
Thakuri said that shrinking glaciers and receding snowline has caused rocks and debris previously permanently covered by snow to appear. According to the researchers, the visible debris in the region had increased by 16 percent since the 1960s.
CBS News reports that the research team tracked the temperatures and precipitation rates using hydro-meteorological data from Nepal Climate Observatory and Nepal's Department of Hydrology and Meteorology. They found there had been a 1.08 degrees Fahrenheit increase in temperature and 3.9-inch (100 millimeters) decrease in precipitation (snow and rainfall) during the pre-monsoon and winter moths since 1992.
The researchers found that glaciers smaller than one square kilometer (247 acres) were disappearing faster than other ice formations. Their surface area declined by 43 percent since the 1960s.
The researchers said they believe that declining snowfall in the area since the 1990s contributed to the increasing rate of melting of snow and ice.
Although the researchers assume that the glacial thawing in the region was due to "human-generated greenhouse gases altering global climate," they admitted that they have not found "a firm connection between the mountains' changes and climate change."
According to LA Times, the study is attracting attention in the scientific community and in official circles because the glaciers provide water and power for about 1.5 billion people. According to Thakuri, "the Himalayan glaciers and ice caps are considered a water tower for Asia since they store and supply water downstream during the dry season. Downstream populations are dependent on the melt water for agriculture, drinking and power production."
The researchers hope to gather information that will help to resolve water rights issues in the area as the thawing continues.
Live Science reports the researchers observed that the glaciers are not melting in all parts of the Himalayan region. For instance, the glaciers in the Karakoram Mountains on the China-India-Pakisitan border have been growing.
LA Times notes that the research on ice melt in the region has a controversial history. A previous report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change had predicted that the glaciers in the region would disappear by 2035. However, a subsequent study by the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission showed that the thaw was only about one-tenth the rate claimed, Digital Journal reported. The satellite observations showed that glaciers were growing in some areas of the region such as the Tibetan plateau.
Mount Everest is the world's tallest mountain. It is located in the border between China and Nepal in the Himalaya region. Its summit is over 29,000 feet (8,848m) above sea level.
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