Email
Password
Remember meForgot password?
    Log in with Twitter

article imageWhy Asia's glaciers are expanding, and not melting

By Karen Graham     Oct 12, 2014 in Environment
In many regions of the world, glaciers, great rivers of ice are melting. From the Himalayan Mountains to other areas of our globe, we have documented the loss of glaciers. But there are regions in our world where glaciers are actually growing.
The Karakoram Mountain Range's snowy peaks lie along the border of India, Pakistan and China. Here you will find the infamous K2, the second highest mountain on Earth, next to Mount Everest. Its reputation as the "Savage Mountain" is well earned, with every fourth person trying an ascent losing their life.
Scientists from the National Center for Scientific Research and the University of Grenoble have used satellite data that clearly shows glaciers in the Karakoram Range, lying west of the Himalayas, are putting on mass. This is a big story, especially with the erroneous report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 2007. That report stated glaciers in the Himalaya's would disappear by 2035.
Overview map showing Karakoram Range and Himalayan Range of mountains.
Overview map showing Karakoram Range and Himalayan Range of mountains.
NSIDC
The lopsided melting of glaciers and sea ice around the world
It has recently been discovered that sea ice and glaciers around the world has been melting at unusually fast rates, but the melting is not consistent. Scientists have been perplexed about this phenomenon as was shown by the record sea ice extent in the Southern oceans. The same has proved true with glaciers, and in particularly the Karakorum Range in Asia.
Researcher Julie Gardelle, of CNRS-Université Grenoble, France told LiveScience, "The rest of the glaciers in the Himalayas are mostly melting, in that they have negative mass balance." But in the Karakorum Range "we found that glaciers aren't." She said, "This is an anomalous behavior."
The West Rongbuk Glacier is just north of Mt. Everest. The photo taken in 1921 by Major E.O. Wheeler...
The West Rongbuk Glacier is just north of Mt. Everest. The photo taken in 1921 by Major E.O. Wheeler, of the Royal Geographical Society is a lot different than the photo taken in 2009 by David Breashears of GlacierWorks.org.
NSIDC
It took a couple years for scientists to figure out how to explain what was happening, and when they did figure it out, it made perfect sense. In 2012, satellite photos taken in 1999 and 2008 were used to investigate an area covering about a quarter of the Karakorum Range, or about 2,167 square miles. Two computer models were used to translate the elevation of the glaciers and extent of the ice. The study confirmed the relative stability of glaciation and even some increase.
Precipitation is the answer to the lopsided melting of glaciers
The studies found that precipitation over the Himalayan Range had increased in recent years, with rainfall predominate in the warmer summer months, thereby increasing glacier melt. Along the same vein, precipitation in the Karakoram Range occurs mostly in the winter months, falling as snow. "It's been a source of controversy that these glaciers haven't been changing while other glaciers in the world have," said study researcher Sarah Kapnick, a postdoctoral researcher in atmospheric and ocean sciences at Princeton University.
Skyang Kangri  North face.
Photo taken: Dec. 31  1985.
Skyang Kangri, North face. Photo taken: Dec. 31, 1985.
Kuno Lechner
One interesting observation the French research team found was the difference in the computer modeling used by their group and the models used by the IPCC in their report in 2007. The newer computer models were able to simulate climate data down to an area as small as 19 square miles. They actually were able to match recorded temperature and precipitation cycles in the Karakoram region based on real time. The IPPC models were unable to capture seasonal changes accurately, giving way to erroneous results.
The Karakoram Mountain Range is one of the most inhospitable regions on Earth. With over 35,000 glaciers, many have never been measured of felt the footsteps of man. With the advent of modern satellite technology, scientists have been able to view many for probably the first time. The Himalayan Mountains, on the other hand, have approximately 15,000 glaciers, and are the third largest ice field in the world.
Mount Robson and the Robson Glacier as seen from the Snowbird Pass route. Mount Robson Provincial Pa...
Mount Robson and the Robson Glacier as seen from the Snowbird Pass route. Mount Robson Provincial Park, British Columbia, Canada.
Brilang
The importance of understanding glaciation and the impacts of global warming over the long term on glacier melting is necessary in determining water sources for years to come. Recording minute changes and variables in essential to the future of all of the world's people.
More about Asia, Glaciers, Karakoram region of Asia, K2, Himalayan glaciers
 
Latest News
Top News