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Glacier melting in the Himalaya

Glacier melting in the Himalayas is currently occurring at rates as high as 50 feet per year. As a result, the icy base camp where Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay started their ascent of Mount Everest in 1953 is covered in mud. It would take an extra two hours today for climbers to reach the glacier where the first ascent of Mount Everest began 53 years ago.

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As a result of global warming, Nepal’s annual average temperature has risen by about one degree Fahrenheit. But the temperature in the Himalayas is increasing twice as fast,causing rapid glacial melting. Sagarmatha National Park, where Everest is located, is an area of exceptional natural beauty with dramatic mountains, glaciers, and deep valleys.

But climate change seriously threatens the park’s ecosystems. Glacial melting will eventually leave Sagarmatha National Park snowless, and will destroy the habitats of the endangered species in the park, such as the snow leopard and the lesser panda. Melting glaciers also pose a great risk to human lives and livelihoods because of the possibility of ‘glacial lake outburst floods.’ Glacial lake outburst floods occur when glacial lakes fill past their breaking points and burst, causing extensive damage to roads, bridges, trails, and villages. They also put peoples’ lives at risk. Forty of Nepal’s 2,300 glacial lakes are identified as potentially dangerous for glacial lake outburst floods, and 20 of those are considered likely to burst. But among these lakes, only one has mitigation measures in place to protect people downstream. Another worry from the melting glaciers is that, in a few decades, when the glaciers have melted, water level in the glacier-fed rivers around the region will decline. One billion people in Western China, Nepal, and Northern India – a sixth of the world’s population –are dependent on the water in these rivers for fresh drinking water. The loss of this water supply will cause massive economic and environmental problems.


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