Snow Cover Turning to Lakes in the Himalayas

Iceberg in Glacier Strait, Nunavut, Canada, Image credit- Sandy Briggs.By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, May 7 (IPS) – As climate change takes hold, even the mighty Himalayas and Hindu Kush mountain ranges are now losing their snow and ice.

These are the world’s greatest repositories of snow and ice outside of the polar regions, and yet they may melt away in just 20 to 30 years, leaving more than a billion people desperately short of water, experts concluded in San Diego this week.

“There’s been a super-rapid decline in the glaciers of the region,” said Charles Kennel, senior strategist at the University of California San Diego Sustainability Solutions Institute and former director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Kennel told IPS that nearly all of the 20,000 glaciers in the Himalaya-Hindu Kush mountain ranges are in retreat and the meltwater from some has created enormous lakes held back by rockslides that will inevitably burst, endangering anyone living in the valleys below. The World Wildlife Fund calculates there are 2,000 glacial lakes forming in Nepal and around 20 are in danger of bursting. Several have already flooded valleys in the past two decades in Nepal and Tibet.

“We are trying to make it known that the Himalayas are to the issue of the world’s water supply problem what the Amazon rain forest is to the issue of deforestation,” he said in reference to the “Ice, Snow, and Water” workshop convened at UC San Diego this week that included scientists from India, Nepal, Singapore and China.

The Himalayas–Hindu Kush and nearby mountains, along with the high-elevation Tibetan Plateau that spans 1.6 million square kilometers, are the water towers of Asia and feed its great rivers – the Yellow, Yangtze, Mekong, Salween, Indus, Ganges and Brahmaputra. Sometimes referred to as Earth’s “third pole”, the snow and ice in the region provide the largest river run-off from any single location in the world.

For complete article pls see: CLIMATE CHANGE: Snow Cover Turning to Lakes in the Himalayasice frag by river.

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