Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Tomioka Shiho and Sato Osafumi, "Global Warming Thaws Himalayan Glaciers at Frightening Speed," Japan Focus, January 15, 2008.

A 2001 photograph of the Khumbu Glacier from Kala Pattar, 5,400 meters

Aerial photographs taken by The Asahi Shimbun aircraft Asuka, in cooperation with Nagoya University field researchers, show that glaciers there have become thinner while lakes that hold the water of melted glaciers have rapidly expanded in the 30 years since the last photos were taken by the university....If the Himalayan glaciers continue to thaw, the banks of the expanded glacial lakes could burst, causing massive flooding in downstream areas....Of more than 3,000 glaciers in Nepal, however, only less than 1 percent have been surveyed firsthand. The latest field research was conducted from October through December by a team led by Fujita Koji, 38, associate professor of glaciology at the Graduate School of Environmental Studies of Nagoya University.


In one of the areas, the researchers found Khumbu Glacier, which is already known to have become thinner, meandering for about 17 kilometers with a width of about 500 m. As many parts of the glacier were covered with soil, it looked like a brown river.


Glaciers in Europe and South America grow when snow falls in the winter. In the Himalayas, however, they grow with snow that falls during the summertime monsoon seasons at temperatures a little bit higher than zero.

If global warming proceeds, snow that falls in the Himalayas could change to rain. The rain will melt glaciers instead of expanding them. "The glaciers in the Himalayas are a sensitive sensor to measure global warming," Fujita said.


The average temperature in Nepal rose by more than 3 degrees between 1970 and 1994.

Read the whole article in Japan Focus.

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This article appeared at the International Herald Tribune/Asahi Shinbun on January 10,2008. Posted at Japan Focus on January 15, 2008.
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