New study confirms Himalayan glaciers will not disappear any time soon

This NASA image shows the formation of numerou...

Glacial lakes, Bhutan: Image via Wikipedia

Reuters reports:

(Reuters) – Some Himalayan glaciers are advancing despite an overall retreat, according to a study on Sunday that is a step toward understanding how climate change affects vital river flows from China to India.

“Our study shows there is no uniform response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change and highlights the importance of debris cover,” scientists at universities in Germany and the United States wrote in the study of 286 glaciers.

The findings underscore that experts in the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) were wrong to say in a 2007 report that Himalayan glaciers could vanish by 2035 in a headlong thaw. The panel corrected the error in 2010.

The report said that 58 percent of glaciers examined in the westerly Karakoram range of the Himalayas were stable or advancing, perhaps because they were influenced by cool westerly winds than the monsoon from the Indian Ocean.

Science News says:

Glaciers largely stable in one range of Himalayas

Dirk Scherler of the University of Potsdam, Germany, and his colleagues report in the January 23 Nature Geoscience. ……. but in Karakoram, 58 percent of studied glaciers were stable or slowly expanding up to 12 meters per year…..

The new findings are consistent with what Kenneth Hewitt of Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, has observed, and point to the fact “that the picture of climate change effects in high Asia is much more complicated than most people realize.”

Indeed, for much of the past century Karakoram’s glaciers were in retreat. A 2005 paper by Hewitt described a turnaround that commenced only in the late 1990s. In the new study, Scherler’s team looked for factors that might affect the responsiveness of Himalayan glaciers to regional warming. A rocky blanket quickly emerged as a major one.

D. Scherler, B. Bookhagen and M.R. Strecker. Spatially variable response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change affected by debris cover. Nature Geoscience (in press, online January 23, 2011). DOI: 10.1038/NGEO1068.

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