Breathtaking Himalayan view – melting

This photo from Nepali Times shows green and blue melt pools on the North Ama Dablam Glacier, where the vanishing icefall has exposed the eroded bedrock below.

I remember the first time I looked up at the Himalayan range from Nepal: I was dumbstruck. It seemed like I had to tilt my head back an extra notch in order to see to the very tops of the peaks, compared to gazing up at the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

Today I’m back in Nepal, fortunate that once a year or so I get to fly out of Kathmandu, which almost always means a view of the Himalayan range once the plane climbs above the smog and clouds. It is a magnificent sight, and I remind myself how lucky I am to be able to take to the skies – especially when the other option is the traffic on Nepal’s increasingly crowded, dust-choked roads.

But two decades later even these most majestic mountains are at risk from – you guessed it – global warming.

As reported by Ajaya Dixit in Nepali Times in January, the nearly 7,000-m tall Mount Machapuchre resembled a black pyramid when his plane broke through to clear skies. Despite it being the middle of winter, the snow had melted. “The Himalaya has seen unprecedented melting due to rising average global temperatures, and soot particles from pollution that reduces the reflective power of the snow,” Dixit wrote.

That’s bad enough, he added, but just as devastating is the number of springs drying up across Nepal – flow dropped by 60% in recent years, found preliminary surveys.

Frightening new report

A report released Monday by ICIMOD contains frightening predictions for climate change in Nepal and neighbouring countries. In the best case scenario the Himalayas will lose one-third of their ice by 2100; if current trends continue the melt would erase two-thirds of the range’s ice.

Called The Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, the massive study translates these devastating scenarios into impacts on peoples’ lives. It finds that Himalayan peaks are warming between 0.3C to 0.7C faster than the global average, and, as summarised by Nepali Times, “the loss of Himalayan ice would have devastating consequences for 1.6 billion people living in the mountains and downstream countries.”

“The hydro-meteorological impact of climate change will go beyond countries like Nepal or Bhutan,” adds the newspaper. “Heavily populated and rapidly developing downstream areas of China, Southeast Asia, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh will face severe water crisis. And then there is the indirect impact of the warming on weather and monsoons, as simulations show increased frequency of droughts and floods.”

No more snow-capped peaks?

So the impact of climate change in this region goes far beyond the loss of my and other airline passengers’ spectacular views. The world’s tallest peaks are melting – and global warming is the culprit.

What’s to be done. I have a few ideas:

  • Vote for governments who will act on climate change, not just promise to do something.
  • Trade in your vehicle for an electric one – I just bought an e-scooter. Better yet, park it at home and take public transportation; better yet still, cycle or walk.
  • Tread lighter as a consumer – take steps to measure the environmental impacts of the things you buy. It’s not always easy – paper shopping bags can be recycled but they start with trees, and some plastics today can not only be recycled but are biodegradable. Not sure? Ask the question. Get climate conscious.



Author: Marty Logan

I am a husband and father communicating to change the world. I write, edit and podcast, mostly about health and human rights. Canada and Nepal.

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