Monday, August 31, 2009

Melting glaciers threaten 'Nepal tsunami'

Terra Daily via Agence France-Presse: …Scientists say the Imja Glacier above Dengboche is retreating by about 70 metres (230 feet) a year, and the melting ice has formed a huge lake that could devastate villages downstream if it bursts. The trend is not new. Nepal's International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), which has studied the Himalayas for three decades, says many of the country's glaciers have been retreating for centuries.

But ICIMOD glaciologist Samjwal Ratna Bajracharya said this was now happening at an alarming speed, with temperatures in the Himalayas rising at a much faster rate than the global average. "Our studies of the past 30 years show that the temperatures (in the Himalayas) are rising up to eight times faster than the global average. Melting is taking place higher and faster," Bajracharya told AFP.

"The melting of glaciers and formation of glacier lakes is a key indicator of the temperature rise. And lately, we have seen massive ice melt." Nepal has more than 2,300 glacial lakes and experts say at least 20 are in danger of bursting.

At almost one square kilometre (0.38 square miles), the Imja lake is the country's second biggest, estimated to hold 36 million cubic metres (47 million cubic yards) of water, and is considered the biggest flood threat.

…Information about how many people would be affected by a glacial lake bursting remains limited, but experts say the floodwaters could reach as far as Nepal's southern planes and beyond. Environment secretary Uday Raj Sharma said last week the bursting of the Imja lake would be like a "Nepalese tsunami," comparing it with the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster in which around 220,000 people died.

Climber taking the final few steps onto the 20,305 ft. (6,189 m) summit of Imja Tse (Island Peak) in Nepal. Shot by Mountaineer, Wikimedia Commons, under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License

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