The Himalayas Are 'Thawing': Scientists

A speedy rise of water level was lately reported by UN Environment Programme scientists in regard to 50 mountain lakes going to ravage the Himalayas in the coming five years after a three-year study had been made of the area's topography, satellite pictures and atmosphere.

Of the 50 glacial lakes, 20 are told in Nepal, 24 in the Kingdom of Bhutan. These with their glacial water reportedly have already been in a perilous state because of a warming-up weather and a break of embankment of these would put tens of thousands of human lives at stake and bring a loss of several million USD in the area, the report warned.

Some time before, a study report by the International Commission on Ice and Snow also points to a fast "thaw" of glaciers on the Himalayas from a warming-up weather. By 2035 there would have no glaciers extant on the Himalayas not to say possible land ravages, disasters and other perils as an outbreak of floods and mudflows to be brought when should such a "fast thaw" not be checked, it said.

Icecaps thinning out fast

Since the 1990s, icecaps have been exposed to a warming-up weather and thawed out fast throughout the world. As a result of ravaging discharges of large amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases and consequent greenhouse effect from human activities there has been given rise to a speedy thaw of world icecaps. To a warming-up weather most vulnerable are those in the Polar Regions. The last century had seen many icecaps had thawed out and totally disappeared. Typical are those in the Arctic already showing a 6 percent cut and an annual total of 340,000 square kilometers of ice surface lost in the years 1978-1996. Icecaps on the Greenland Sea, with the biggest of mainland ice mass along with those in the region of the Antarctic, had originally possessed an 8 percent of world ice masses. But since 1993, an annual amount of 1 meter of ice has thinned out on the south and east peripheries of icecaps in the area. Icecaps in the area of the Antarctic, with an ice mass about 91 percent of the world ice and a thickness averaging 2,300 meters are also thawing out. Since 1998, one seventh of icecaps in the area have disappeared. Large icebergs have also become detached ice masses from icecaps as those in the Antarctic endangering normal navigation and the safety of Polar wildlife.

By 2050, scientists say, over one fourth of mountain glaciers would disappear over the world and this would be up to 50 percent by 2100. By then, there would have no big glaciers except some on the highlands of Alaska, Patagonia, the Himalayas and Central Asia throughout the world. In the coming 35 years, glaciers would be found one fifth less over an area of 10 thousand square kilometers on the Himalayas.

No serious consequences can be taken lightly by people on world weather when considering large cap ice masses thawing and going to disappear. Large amounts of solar energy would be reflected back into the atmosphere from icecaps thawing, especially those of polar cap ice for a cooling of the globe on which we are living. Following a thaw of large ice masses in the Polar Regions there would inevitably have a rise of heat, chain reaction and a general cooling of world weather as in some parts of Europe and the eastern part of the USA. Ice water would flow into the North Atlantic to turn back warm currents from the Gulf in a northward direction around the Pacific.

Serious water shortages to strike some areas

Because of a shrink of mountain glaciers, grave water shortages will occur in areas relying on glacial water flows.

Glaciers have been long main sources of water supply to Lima, Peru. But it has come to suffer already from an annual amount of over 30m of glaciers thawed out in recent years. A fact against this to make a difference in early water supply of the city was a mere 3m thawing rate in the area before 1990. In the north of India, there are already some areas suffering from a serious shortage of water supply. Statistics show that there are as many as 5 million people relying on water supply from tributaries of the Indus and Ganges Rivers for living and irrigation. But for an overall thaw of glaciers on the Himalayas there will have a speedy increase of water flow. When water flow reaches a critical point it will decrease to a dangerous level. This is especially so in summer. A fast thawing of glaciers will bring serious floods.

A fast rise of sea level possible

Large ice masses thawing out on a big scale would bring a rise of sea level and submerge large tracts of coastlands with a 50 percent population of the world inhabited. For cap ice masses and mountain glaciers thawing out a 10-25cm rise of sea level had been seen in the past century. Among the various causes had been a rise of temperature as thermal expansion and accelerated thawing of ice masses breaking up. Icecaps in the Arctic have been in the way storing 70 percent of world water supply. A collapse of this, it is estimated, will result in a rise of 6 meters of sea level and when a complete thaw of icecaps in the North and South Polar Regions will push the sea level up to a 70-meter high.

Polar wildlife endangered

This is particularly so with those of mammals, sea birds and other species depending on catches on the peripheries of icecaps in the North and South Polar Regions. In the north of Canada, there are reports about north polar bears going hungry seeking for food. In the Antarctic area, sea ice masses have disappeared because of a rise of weather temperature and an increase of waterfall and these have become causes changing the habit of seals seeking for food and reproduction. As a result of ice thawing, many species of microbes hiding away under icecaps for several hundred to tens of thousands of years have been exposed. A spread of these microbes may have their detrimental effect on the health of human beings. For ice masses are thawing out and a change of ecological equilibrium damages have been wrought on the living environment of men, animals and plants and consequent upon this will be mass migration and extinction of bios known to men.

( People's Daily May 13, 2002)