New research presented at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union on Tuesday shows that the glaciers of Mount Everest, the world's tallest mountain, and in the national park surrounding it, have shrunk by 13% over the past 50 years.
According to the study, led by Sudeep Thakuri, a graduate scientist at the University of Milan, the snow line has retreated by 590 ft, increasingly revealing the rock and natural debris beneath. And the rate of retreat of the majority of glaciers is increasing.
Smaller glaciers, measuring less than 1 square kilometer, are shrinking the fastest, with a 43% decline in their surface area since 1960. The researchers suspect that the glacial retreat is due to climate change, but according to Thakuri their research has yet to establish a firm connection between the two.
See below for a Greenpeace report on how glacial retreat in the Mount Everest region is affecting the lives of those who live in the area:
These latest findings come after a study released last year by researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Institute of Tibetan Research in Beijing based on 30 years of measurements also found that the majority of glacier on the Tibetean plateau and in the surrounding area are rapidly retreating.
While the 2012 study did show the rate of retreat varies significantly, and another study last year indicated that apparently some areas are not melting at all, the latest findings are concerning given that as Thakuri notes, “the Himalayan glaciers and ice caps are considered a water tower for Asia since they store and supply water downstream during the dry season ... Downstream populations are dependent on the melt water for agriculture, drinking, and power production.”