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Mass loss on Himalayan glacier endangers water resources

Year of publication2008
Author(s)N. M. Kehrwald
Co-authorsL. G. Thompson, Y. Tandong, E. Mosley-Thompson, U. Schotterer, V. Alfimov, J. Beer, J. Eikenberg, and M. E. Davis
Number of pages35
JournalGeophysical Research Abstracts
Publication typeJournal, booklet
Ice cores drilled from glaciers around the world generally contain horizons with elevated levels of beta radioactivity including 36Cl and 3H associated with atmospheric thermonuclear bomb testing in the 1950s and 1960s. Ice cores collected in 2006 from Naimona'nyi Glacier in the Himalaya (Tibet) lack these distinctive marker horizons suggesting no net accumulation of mass (ice) since at least 1950. Naimona'nyi is the highest glacier (6050 masl) documented to be losing mass annually suggesting the possibility of similar mass loss on other high-elevation glaciers in low and mid-latitudes under a warmer Earth scenario. If climatic conditions dominating the mass balance of Naimona'nyi extend to other glaciers in the region, the implications for water resources could be serious as these glaciers feed the headwaters of the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra Rivers that sustain one of the world's most populous regions.