The Himalayan glaciers have lost ice 10 times more quickly over the last few decades than on average since the last major glacier expansion 400-700 years ago, a period is known as the ‘Little Ice Age’, said a latest study.
The study, led by the University of Leeds, also reveals that Himalayan glaciers are shrinking far more rapidly than glaciers in other parts of the world, a rate of loss the researchers describe as ‘exceptional’ as they lost around 40 per cent of their area.
The research is the latest confirmation that the changes in the Himalayan glaciers are accelerating.
The paper — ‘Accelerated mass loss of Himalayan glaciers since the Little Ice Age’ — published in Scientific Reports made a reconstruction of the size and ice surfaces of 14,798 Himalayan glaciers during the Little Ice Age.
“The researchers calculate that the glaciers have lost around 40 per cent of their area — shrinking from a peak of 28,000 sq km to around 19,600 sq km today,” said a statement.
During that period, they have also lost between 390 cubic km and 586 cubic km of ice — the equivalent of all the ice contained today in the central European Alps, the Caucasus, and Scandinavia combined.
The water released through that melting has raised sea levels across the world by between 0.92 mm and 1.38 mm, the team calculates, the statement said.
The Himalayan range is home to the world’s third-largest amount of glacier ice, after Antarctica and the Arctic, and is often referred to as ‘The Third Pole.’
The acceleration of melting of Himalayan glaciers has significant implications for millions of people who depend on Asia’s major river systems for food and energy.
These rivers include the Brahmaputra, the Ganges and the Indus.
Himalayan glaciers are also declining faster where they end in lakes, which have several warming effects, rather than where they end on land.
The number and size of these lakes are increasing so continued acceleration in mass loss can be expected.