'Mixed picture' emerging of Himalayan glaciers' melting

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London, December 1 (ANI): Reports indicate that a mixed picture is emerging about the melting of the Himalayan glaciers, with some scientists backing the claim, while some opposing it.

According to a report by BBC News, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) had said that Himalayan glaciers were receding faster than in any other part of the world.

"If the present rate continues, the likelihood of them disappearing by 2035 and perhaps sooner is very high if the Earth keeps warming at the current rate," the panel observed.

This report sparked concerns that there could be increased flooding in the short term, as glacial lakes suddenly overflowed.

In the longer term, major glacier-fed rivers, it was feared, would run dry, affecting millions in the region.

But some scientists claim that glaciers in the Himalayas are not retreating as fast as was believed.

Others who have observed nearby mountain ranges even found that glaciers there were advancing.

Kenneth Hewitt, a glaciologist from Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario, Canada, is one of these scientists.

He has been doing field studies in Pakistan's Karakoram Mountains at the western reaches of the Himalayan range for the last 40 years.

Just back from the that region, he told BBC News that he saw at least half a dozen glaciers that had been advancing since the last time he saw them - five years ago.

"Dozens of smaller, high altitude tributary glaciers have advanced including seven of Biafo Glacier and four of Panmah," said Hewitt.

"It means climate change is happening here too, but with different consequences," he added.

Scientists have also described a phenomenon called glacial "surge", which is thought to be caused by melt water underneath the glacier lubricating its ground contact and causing it to move forward.

This is different from a real advance of a glacier, which is caused by an increase in the volume of ice.

"Rapid, surge-type advances have occurred in at least 17 glaciers since 1985, at least eight since 2000 (in the Karakoram)," said Dr Hewitt.

In the western Himalayas, some scientists have also reported findings that conflict with the long-held view that glaciers are retreating.

But, according to Indian glaciologist Syed Iqbal Hasnain, those who criticize the finding that glaciers are retreating are often researchers who never go into the field and who rely too heavily on satellite images.

"When you are measuring from 35,000km above, the data cannot be accurate and so there needs to be (verification on the) ground," he told BBC News. "But people don't do that," he added. (ANI)

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