Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reports about the Himalayas

The Financial Times reports today from Kathmandu about the dwindling amount of snow and ice on the glaciers of the Himalayas. Sometimes called 'the Third Pole', these mountains are the sourse for at least 10 of Asia's major rivers. Changes in the flow of these rivers caused by glacier and snow melt could affect the livliehoods of around 2 billion people.

This article makes the claim that what's important is not actually the retreat of the glaciers, but the decline in the snowpack. Melting snow, they claim, is what feeds the seasonal rivers.  This is the first time that I've seen that enunciated. With credit to the FT, I reproduce their chart showing the rapid loss in water (snow, ice, or rain) from the Himilayas since 1960. What is most striking about this graph is that this decline has been constant since 1960, and the 1998-2008 decade -- the warmest in the human record -- is not even acounted for on this graph. We desperately need more and better information about what is happening in this region.

With better information, government ministers can determine how best to divide the dwindling water resources coming from the Himalayas. In September, environment ministers from across East and South Asia met in Nepal in the first example of intergovernmental meetings to discuss this topic.

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