Himalaya Ice-Melt Threat Monitored in Nepal

March 10, 2006

The Khumbu Glacier on Mount Everest has retreated more than three miles (five kilometers) from the time when Edmund Hillary and Tensing Norgay famously set out to conquer the world's highest peak in 1953.

Scientists have documented a similar trend in glaciers throughout the Himalaya, the mountain range that houses Mount Everest.

The range, which spans several Asian nations, is known as the Water Tower of Asia, since billions of people depend on its life-bringing flows.

But scientists fear that these water supplies could eventually dry up as the glaciers melt due to global warming.

Researchers have therefore installed an automatic weather station on the Himalayan Ngozumpa Glacier, the longest in Nepal (see map).

The unmanned station will record data, such as solar radiation, humidity, air temperature, wind speed, air pressure, and precipitation.

Changes in water flow caused by glacial melting will also be measured in a river fed by the 16-mile-long (25-kilometer-long) glacier.

Previously, scientists monitoring these mountain glaciers had to climb the icy peaks or rely on satellite images.

WWF, the international conservation group, donated the equipment for this project to the Nepalese government's Department of Hydrology and Meteorology.

"Taking this glacier as a pilot site we can predict what the implications are of climate change in the glacier environment," said Sandeep Chamling Rai, climate change officer for WWF's Nepal Program.

Rai says there are not enough automatic weather stations in Nepal "to give a clear picture of what is going on in the Himalayan region."

He adds that another station is soon to be installed on Mount Everest's Khumbu Glacier.

Continued on Next Page >>




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