Glaciers in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, home to Everest and K2, are on track to lose up to 75% of their volume by 2100 due to global warming, warns a new report. The study reveals that ice loss in the region has accelerated, with glaciers shedding ice 65% faster during the 2010s compared to the previous decade.
The consequences of glacier melt in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region pose a significant risk to the livelihoods of 240 million people who reside in the mountainous area. The report highlights that water flows in the region’s river basins are likely to peak around mid-century before dwindling, impacting over 1.6 billion people who rely on this water supply.
While increased melting might initially create the perception of more water availability, the resulting water flows are often erratic and lead to floods rather than a steady flow. In addition to water scarcity, changing snowfall patterns also affect high mountain communities who rely on glacial water and snowmelt for irrigation and livestock grazing. Erratic snowfall and reduced grass availability have already led to significant yak deaths, and people are moving away from mountain communities in search of alternative livelihoods.
Understanding the impact of climate change on the Hindu Kush Himalaya has been challenging due to a lack of historical field measurements. However, recent advancements in satellite technology and access to declassified spy satellite images from the United States have improved scientists’ knowledge of the changes occurring in the region.
The report draws on data up until December 2022, providing a more comprehensive understanding of glacier loss. The increased confidence in these findings compared to a previous assessment in 2019 allows for a better projection of glacier loss in the region under different warming scenarios.
Governments in the region are taking steps to prepare for the impending changes. Countries like China are focusing on securing water supplies, while Pakistan is installing early warning systems to mitigate the risks of glacial lake outburst floods. However, the scale and urgency of the issue call for coordinated efforts from all countries in the Hindu Kush Himalaya region to address the potential disasters associated with glacier loss.
Source : Reuter