Sunday, July 22, 2012

‘Dirty snow’ hastens glacial melt in Himalayas

Bhrikuti Raj in IPS:  Every morning, as Gian Pietro Verza walks up the lateral moraine of the Khumbu Glacier in this Himalayan country’s north-east to take measurements, the wind makes colourful prayer flags flutter noisily. That same wind carries soot particles that are causing the snow on the mountains to melt faster.

The Italian scientist and mountaineer has been working at the Pyramid International Observatory below Mt Everest since 1987, and has seen the rapid retreat of the glaciers around him even in the last 25 years. “The ice used to come right up to there,” he says, pointing towards the jumble of boulders and gravel in the glacier. “Now it has retreated up beyond base camp.”

Agostino Da Polenza and the late professor Ardito Desio set up the Nepal Climate Observatory Pyramid (EvK2Cnr) in a unique collaboration between the Italian Research National Council and the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, at an altitude of 5,050 metres in Lobuje.

The EvK2Cnr has been doing research into the effect of global warming on the Himalayas, and recently turned its attention to the impact of ‘black carbon’ on accelerating the melting of ice and snow. Black carbon is fine soot and ash produced by diesel exhausts, thermal power plants, brick kiln smokestacks, and forest fires, but is often confused with gaseous carbon dioxide.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), along with scientists and international research institutions, says there is evidence increased black carbon deposits on Himalayan glaciers make them absorb more sunlight, accelerating glacial and snow melt....

At the foot of Imja Glacier below Mt. Lhotse, there is now a lake where there used to be ice. Shot by Daniel Alton Byers, under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

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