Institute for Environmental Security

Advancing Global Environmental Security through
Science · Diplomacy · Law · Finance · Education

IES News

New studies stress urgency of environmental security danger from Glacial Melt at the Third Pole

Three new studies have confirmed both the reality and the potential for disaster of Glacial Melt in the Himalayas, Hindu Kush and Tibetan Plateau
16 December 2009

New studies stress urgency of environmental security danger from Glacial Melt at the Third Pole - ImageProfessor Geoffrey Boulton of the School of Geosciences at the University of Edinburgh made a joint presentation with Tom Spencer of the IES on 10th November at a seminar organised by the Royal Society and Chatham House. Professor Boulton demonstrated the relationship between the Indian Monsoon and the snow field. He presented new data showing that 80-85% of the Ganges dry season flow is the result of ice and snow melt. His figures showed that there had been an 11% reduction in dry season flow in the last thirty years. He further presented data showing how the ice fields were retreating to ever higher levels in Nepal.

On the 7th December Nirj Deva, MEP, Vice President of the Development Committee of the European Parliament convened the first of a series of European Parliament seminars on the Challenges of Glacial Melt. The programme included a videoed interview with Professor Jean-Pascal Van Ypersele, Vice Chair of the IPCC who stressed the role of Black Carbon in accelerating the melting of the glaciers. Ambassadors from Bangladesh and Nepal underlined the urgency which their governments attached to this issue. Senior diplomats from China and India took part in the discussion. Three members of WWF Nepal then made a presentation on the Impact of Glacial Melt on their country.

Two reports issued this week in Copenhagen further stressed the urgency of the situation.

UNEP, ICIMOD (The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development) and CICERO (the Center for International Climate & Environmental Research) presented recent research based on five field teams working in China, India, Pakistan and Nepal. This stressed that the people of the region faced ?either too much or too little water in the Himalayas? . The Report underlines the dangers of glacial lake outburst floods (GLOFS) capable of destroying lives and infrastructure for up to one hundred kilometers downstream.

Perhaps most worryingly of all, a new modelling study from NASA confirms the contribution of Black Carbon and dust to the warming of the Third Pole. William Law, Head of Atmospheric Sciences at NASA?s Goddard Space Flight Center confirmed that an ?elevated heat pump, driven by airborne dust and soot particles, is fuelling the loss of ice?. ?Sooty Black Carbon travels east along wind currents latched to dust ? its agent of transport ? and become trapped in the air against Himalayan foothills. The particle?s dark color absorbs solar radiation, creating a layer of warm air from the surface that rises to higher altitudes above the mountain ranges to become a major catalyst of glacier and snow melt?.

Meanwhile, Jairam Ramesh, the Indian Minister for Environment and Forests, was publicly worrying that he might get a ?Fossil of the Day? award because of the continued state of denial about Glacial Melt by some of his countrymen. A recent paper by his Ministry, describing itself as a State of the Art Review, did not consider a single peer-reviewed journal more recent than 1980. The Nepalese Government on the other hand went so far as to hold a Cabinet meeting at the foot of Mount Everest in order to draw attention to the damage which has already occurred from Glacial Melt.

Selection from Geoffrey Boulton\'s presentation

Post categories:

Institute for Environmental Security Logo