Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mount Everest's glaciers shrinking at increasing rate, say researchers

Jason Burke in the Guardian (UK): Global warming is melting snow and ice on the world's highest mountain at an accelerating rate, researchers have claimed.

A study by a team led by a Nepali scientist at the University of Milan has found that glaciers on or around Mount Everest have shrunk by 13% in the last 50 years with the snow line 180 metres higher than it was 50 years ago. The glaciers are disappearing faster every year, it says.

The 60th anniversary of the first ascent of the 8,848 metre (29,028ft) peak by Sir Edmund Hillary and Sherpa Tenzing Norgay will be celebrated next week.

The researchers say they suspect that the decline of snow and ice in the Everest region is a result of changes in global climate caused by human-generated greenhouse gases. However, they have not yet established a firm connection, Sudeep Thakuri, who led the team, said.

The landscape around Mount Everest has changed dramatically since the world's highest mountain was first climbed. Mountaineers now report more rock and less snow and ice on well known routes. The ends of glaciers around the peak have also retreated by an average of 400 meters since 1962, the new research found, and some smaller glaciers were now nearly half the size they were in the 1960s.

The researchers used satellite imagery of the peak and the 713-square-mile Sagarmatha national park around the mountain as well as long-term meteorological data....

The Drang-drung glacier in Ladakh, shot by Wildchild826, public domain

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