Mount Everest: Climate change threatens summit glaciers

Status: 05.02.2022 5:36 p.m

Until now, little was known about how climate change affects the highest regions of the world. A study now shows the consequences – using the example of the summit glacier on Mount Everest.

The effects of climate change are also reflected in the summit heights of Mount Everest. This is shown by a study by scientists published in the journal “Nature”.

The summit glacier on the Nepalese side of the world’s highest mountain was examined. The South Col glacier is about 7,900 meters above sea level, about a kilometer below the summit of Mount Everest.

A scientific no man’s land

The result of the study paints a bleak picture for the future development of the glacier: If the consequences of climate change cannot be limited, the ice layer threatens to disappear completely within a few decades. The data from the research team show that the thickness of the glacial ice has already decreased by 55 meters in the past 25 years.

So far, there is little scientific knowledge about the consequences of climatic changes in regions that are higher than 5000 meters above sea level, the study says. The same applies to Mount Everest – despite its worldwide fame and more than 7000 summit ascents, far too little is known about the weather, climate and the development of its glaciers.

Glaciers disappear much faster than they formed

To fill some of these knowledge gaps, in April and May 2019, the scientists involved in the expedition conducted the most extensive survey to date of the Nepalese side of Mount Everest, including biological and geological studies. In addition, meteorological data was recorded and the glacier peak was mapped.

Using radiocarbon dating, the researchers also found that the top layer of ice on the glacier is about 2,000 years old. According to the researchers, this finding indicates that the glacier is shrinking more than 80 times faster than it took to form.

Melting could result in flooding

Already, the increasing glacial melt is reflected in the hundreds of lakes that have formed in the foothills of the Himalayan Mountains. If the ice layer continues to decrease, there is a risk of flooding in the regions around these lakes.

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