"Climactic change " (2008)

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The snowline is moving higher, mountain streams are rushing earlier in the year, the monsoons are erratic and giant ropes of glaciers throughout the Himalaya are retreating rapidly, swelling newly-formed lakes at their snouts. These Himalayan symptoms of global climate change are happening within one generation. And their impact won't just affect countries like Nepal, but also the wider Asian region. Alarmed by the rapidity of warming and the lack of reliable data on which to make predictions, the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development is hosting an international conference on the cryosphere starting Monday. "The cryosphere," explained Mats Eriksson of ICIMOD "is the part of the earth which is frozen - icecaps, glaciers, snow cover, permafrost, and frozen lakes and rivers." As temperatures rise around the world, the effects on mountain ice and snow are just as serious as those on the polar icecaps. Over 50 scientists from Asia, North America and Europe will attend the ICIMOD conference to share information, plan future monitoring activities among the world's highest mountains and discuss risk management strategies. ICIMOD has led efforts to raise awareness of the effects of climate change, and this month is also sponsoring the Eco-Everest Expedition, which aims to collect data on shrinking glaciers like the Imja and Khumbu below Chomolungma, and publicise the issue internationally. Political tensions and much of the Himalaya being a war zone make cross-border collection of snow precipitation data and mapping difficult. The conference will look at what will happen when Himalayan glacial lakes burst, and other hazards such as subsidence of land caused by melted permafrost. ICIMOD's Vijay Khadgi said: "Many of these dangers are not immediately obvious and may not manifest themselves until there is a major earthquake, but we have to be prepared for them." The Himalayas are one of the world's most earthquake-prone regions. This fact combined with fragile glacial lakes and destabilised mountain slopes poses grave and growing danger of flashfloods and landslides. Long-term changes to the seasons, temperature and precipitation are also making the precarious lives of people here even more insecure. More water falls as rain and less as snow, and at different times of the year. In dry areas such as Ladakh and northern Pakistan, which depend on snowmelt for much of their water, agriculture is already suffering from reduced water in the growing season. And it's not just people in the mountains who are at risk. 1.3 billion people living downstream in the Indo-Gangetic plains, Burma, Southeast Asia and China will also suffer when glacial ice on the Tibetan Plateau is depleted. The International Panel on Climate Change has predicted that many Himalayan glaciers could melt completely by as early as 2035. Meltwater-fed rivers such as the Ganges, Indus, Huang He and Yangtze may be reduced to trickles or stop altogether in the dry season. This will precipitate a food crisis not just for the massive populations living in the river valleys, but for the whole world which imports grain from these regions. Due to remoteness and lack of resources, the processes and effects of climate change have been researched less in the Himalaya than anywhere else in the world. "There is a big need to understand what is happening here," said Eriksson. ICIMOD hopes more coordinated research in the Himalaya can provide the basis to prepare for the after-effects of climate change.
Year: 2008
Language: English
Nepali Times,
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 Record created 2012-09-28, last modified 2014-03-03