18 September 2020

New Research Shows Increase in Karakoram Glaciers

Call it a ‘climate change mystery’ but scientists have found the Glaciers of Karakorum gaining ice over the last decade. According to a research at the University of France, scientists have disclosed that the Karakoram glaciers— in contrast to worldwide decline in mountain glaciers— have increased around 0.11m to 0.22m per year between 1999 and 2008.

"Our conclusion that Karakoram glaciers had a small mass gain at the beginning of the 21st century indicates that those central/eastern glaciers are not representative of the whole (Himalayas)," researchers said in the report published in the latest issue of Nature Geoscience journal.

The satellite data, analyzed by Julie Gardelle of the University of Grenoble in France does not proffer any specific reason for the increase. However, experts believe that a decade for analyzing glaciers’ response to global warming trends is too little— they suggest minimum of 30-year time frame for the observation.

The research, however, confirms earlier studies that indicated an increase in Karakoram glaciers.

Does this refute the buzz about climate change? It doesn’t as Professor Kenneth Hewitt of Wilfrid Laurier University of Canada, in his study concludes:

“We see the need to establish whether an increase in summer accumulation and decreased ablation in mid- to upper-ablation zone areas has brought a positive mass balance to the larger glaciers. What the Karakoram expansions do not do is refute the case for climate change, nor even atmospheric warming.”

Melting glaciers very likely contribute to sea-level rise and according to the Nobel Prize-winning Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) the Himalayan glaciers will go away by 2035 [deadline reported to be 2350 confused with 2035 by the panel]

Recent research has shown the Karakoram glaciers melting have negatively contributed to the seal-level rise.

“Our measurements…indicate that the contribution of Karakoram glaciers to sea-level rise was −0.01 mm yr for the period from 1999 to 2008,”

Global warming is one of the kinds of Climate Change and it refers to a rise in earth’s average surface temperature. Climate Change, either global warming or global cooling, would very likely have adverse effects on the regions of Gilgit-Baltistan, as dangerous avalanches, increased floods, outburst of natural lacks and dams, earthquakes and heavier precipitation may hit the masses inhabited in this part of the world.

For unknown reasons the number and intensity of avalanches and floods have increased in Gilgit-Baltistan and Chitral areas. In recent years avalanches have hit parts of Chitral, Yasin Valley and remote parts of Baltistan where several people died.  Local people say that the distance and magnitude that the avalanches travel have significantly increased as compared to the past.

Local people in the region have started advocating minimum human caused glacier melting and they fear that the war activities of both Pakistan and India on the world’s important glaciers could eventually lead to destruction by natural calamities .

As of writing this story, about 135 military and civilian Pakistanis have been buried by an avalanche in Siachin, the longest glacier of the Karakuram and the second longest glacier in the non-polar regions.  Siachin is also the world’s highest battleground where Pakistan and India have their military presence.  

Quwat K. Sunny,who belongs to Yasin Valley of Gilgit-Baltistan, has contributed to this story from Canada.
Photo Credits: 
Adventure Club of Pakistan