New study finds Himalayan glaciers lost more mass than previously thought

Beijing, Apr 4 (EFE).- A new study has found that the lake-terminating glaciers in the greater Himalayas have lost more mass that previously known.

The study by a team of global scientists has found that the mass loss of lake-terminating Himalayas glaciers was significantly underestimated from 2000 to 2020 due to the inability of satellites to see underwater glacial changes.

The new findings will have critical implications for the region’s future projections of glacier disappearance and water resources.

The study conducted by researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), Graz University of Technology (Austria), the University of St. Andrews (UK), and Carnegie Mellon University (USA) was published in Nature Geoscience on Monday.

China’s official Global Times said the most significant underestimation of 10 percent occurred in the central Himalayas, where glacial lake growth was the most rapid.

Galong Co glacier had a high underestimation of 65 percent.

A team of international researchers concluded that a previous assessment underestimated the total mass loss from lake-terminating glaciers in the Himalayas by 6.5%, the government-run Global Times reported today.

From 2000 to 2020, proglacial lakes in the region increased by 47 percent in number, 33 percent in the area, and 42 percent in volume.

The expansion resulted in an estimated glacier mass loss of around 2.7 gigatons, equivalent to 570 million elephants, or over 1,000 times the total number of elephants in the world, said the study.

The previous studies had not considered the loss since the satellite data can only measure the lake surface but not underwater ice replaced by water.

“These findings have important implications for understanding the impact of regional water resources and glacial lake outburst floods,” said lead author Zhang Guoqing from the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, quoted by the Global Times.

By accounting for the mass loss from lake-terminating glaciers, the researchers can more accurately assess the annual glacial mass balance.

The study also highlights the need to understand the mechanisms driving total mass loss and the global underestimation of total mass loss from lake-terminating glaciers, estimated to be around 12 percent between 2000 and 2020.

“By more accurately accounting for glacier mass loss, researchers can better predict future water resource availability in sensitive mountain regions,” said co-author Yao Tandong, who also co-chairs Third Pole Environment (TPE), an international science program for the interdisciplinary study of the relationships between water, ice, climate, and humankind in the region and beyond. EFE


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