Himalayan Glaciers Not Melting

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According
to a flurry of recent reports by the BBC and other mass media, the
glaciers in the Himalayan mountains are melting at a furious pace.
Of course this is taken as proof that climate change is still taking
place at an ever accelerating rate, despite the fact the global
temperatures have remained flat for the past decade. What, then,
explains the rapidly retreating Himalayan glaciers? Nothing, because
the glaciers are not shrinking. A new report by a senior Indian
glaciologist states that the glaciers remain frozen and quite intact,
thank you.

The report
by Vijay Kumar Raina, formerly of the Geological Survey of India,
seeks to correct widely spread reports that India’s 10,000 or so
Himalayan glaciers are shrinking rapidly in response to climate
change. It’s not true, Raina says. The rumors may have originated
in the Asia chapter of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Change’s (IPCC’s) 2007 Working Group II report, which claims that
Himalayan glaciers “are receding faster than in any other part
of the world and, if the present rate continues, the likelihood
of them disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner is very
high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate.” Evidently,
the bogus reporting was based on measurements from only a handful
of glaciers.

Raina’s report
draws on published studies and unpublished findings from half a
dozen Indian groups who have analyzed remote-sensing satellite data
or conducted on-site surveys at remote locations often higher than
5000 meters. While the report surveyed of a number of glaciers,
two particularly iconic ones stand out. The first is the 30-kilometer-long
Gangotri glacier, source of the Ganges River. Between 1934 and 2003,
the glacier retreated an average of 70 feet (22 meters) a year and
shed a total of 5% of its length. But in 2004 and 2005, the retreat
slowed to about 12 meters a year, and since September 2007 Gangotri
has been “practically at a standstill,” according to Raina’s
report.

The second
glacier, the Siachin glacier in Kashmir, is even more stable. Claims
reported in the popular press that Siachin has shrunk as much as
50% are simply wrong, says Raina, whose report notes that the glacier
has “not shown any remarkable retreat in the last 50 years.”
These conclusions were based in part on field measurements by ecologist
Kireet Kumar of the G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment
and Development in Almora. Much like the hysteria about Greenland’s
ice cap
, it seems reports of the glaciers’ demise is a bit premature.

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the rest of the article

November
17, 2009

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