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Karakoram glaciers have grown over last decade, new research shows | Environment | The Guardian

The glaciers flowing between the towering peaks of the Karakoram range on the Pakistan-China border have grown in size in the last decade, according to new research.

The impact of climate change on the ice in the greater Himalaya range has been controversial because of an unfounded claim by the United Nations' climate science panel over the rate of melting in the region. However the melting of vast volumes of ice into the sea in most other parts of the world has been clearly demonstrated. In March, scientists showed that far less ice was being lost across the Himalayas than had been estimated from sparse ground surveys on the remote slopes.

The new study shows that glaciers in one important part of the mountain range are growing. "We provide a detailed glacier-scale evaluation of mass changes in the central Karakoram," said Julie Gardelle, at CNRS-Université Grenoble, who led the research published in Nature Geoscience on Sunday. "In our warming world, there are regions of the Earth where, for a few years or decades, the atmosphere is not warming or is even cooling. So it is not really a big surprise that there are some regions where the temperature is not rising and the Karakoram may be one of those."

The scientists used 3D altitude maps obtained from satellites in 2000 and 2008 to track the changes in the glaciers. Prof Graham Cogley, of Trent University in Canada, who was not part of the research team, called the approach a "ground-breaking" advance.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 16th, 2012 at 04:06:07 PM EST
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The glaciers are still shrinking - and rapidly | Jonathan Bamber | Environment | guardian.co.uk

Glaciers are one of the natural environments most often used to illustrate the impacts of climate change. It is fairly indisputable that in a warming world, glaciers melt faster. Yet two recent studies published in top scientific journals (more here and here) suggest that in the Himalayas the rate of mass loss has been small and overestimated, and that further west, in the Karakoram range, the glaciers are actually slightly gaining mass.

Is there a conflict between these studies and the wider body of research indicating that, worldwide, glaciers have been receding for several decades?

To answer this question, we need to look a little more carefully at what the studies show, and to place them in the context of global changes to land and sea ice. Both studies cover a relatively short period of time: eight to nine years, over roughly the last decade. The Himalayas experience large variations in snowfall from year to year depending on the strength of the monsoon. But in atmospheric sciences, trends in climate are generally determined from records that span at least 30.

by Nomad on Mon Apr 16th, 2012 at 04:10:40 PM EST
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