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Global Warming: Everest lakes widen 47 meters per year

The melting of ice has increased the size of 20 thousand glacial lakes in the Himalayas. The rise in water levels endangers the lives of thousands of people.

Due to the melting of Himalayan glaciers, glacial lakes are threatening to overflow. The rise in sea levels threatens the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The most dangerous is Imja Lake (Everest region), which every year increases its perimeter by 47 meters. According to a study by the Nepalese Ministry of Water Resources and experts from the University of Hokkaido (Japan), the phenomenon affects most of the 20 thousand glacial lakes of the Himalayas.

In the Everest region, there are some 1600 glacial lakes. The Imja was formed in the 60s and did not exist when Edmund Hillary conquered Everest in 1953. Each year, the ice melts and the surface of the lake increases by 47 meters. The basin located at 5,100 meters above sea level is about 2.5 km long, 600 meters wide and more than 90 meters deep in some places.

According to experts, the lake has now reached its capacity limit. Over the next five years, the weight of the water could break through the walls of glacial debris, causing a wave of mud, ice and rock for over 100 km. Homes, fields and roads would be submerged by a layer of rubble as high as 15 meters. Teija Watanabe, Hokkaido University geologist, has studied the lake since 1990. He points out that in recent years the Imja has visibly increased and its flooding is only a matter of time.

For months, the Mountain Institute in Kathmandu has been working with a group of researchers from the University of Lima (Peru) to control the lake and create an artificial barrier to contain the mass of water, allowing the use of hydraulic pumps for drainage. In these years, the Peruvians have developed sophisticated systems for the containment of water and have drained 30 glacier basins. In 1940, the overflowing of a lake in the Cordillera Blanca (Central Andes) killed more than 10 thousand people.

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