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Himalayan Glacier Retreat Bodes Consequences for Millions

Himalayan mountains

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Glaciers in the Himalayan Mountains have been growing for millions of years, but researchers at England’s University of Leeds conclude in a new study published in the journal Scientific Reports that they are melting at an exceptional rate compared to other glaciers around the world. The Himalayas are home to nine of the world’s 10 highest peaks, including Mt. Everest, and the source of Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze. They contain the third-largest deposit of ice and snow in the world, after Antarctica and the Arctic. Study co-author Jonathan Carrivick, deputy head of the University of Leeds School of Geography, says, “Our findings clearly show that ice is now being lost from Himalayan glaciers at a rate that is at least 10 times higher than the average rate over past centuries ... and coincides with human-induced climate change.”

These glaciers release meltwater that forms the headwaters of several major rivers, and their disappearance could threaten agriculture, drinking water and energy production in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar. But the impact is not only regional, it includes the effect on sea level rise and the damage that could wreak on coastal communities globally. Carrivick says, “We must act urgently to reduce and mitigate the impact of human-made climate change on the glaciers and meltwater-fed rivers.”