Mount Everest's largest glacier is melting at an alarming rate

Mount Everest's largest glacier is melting at an alarming rate. image: wikipedia - Tirthankanji

The South Col, the largest glacier on Mount Everest, is reportedly melting at a very rapid rate

A new study has revealed that the South Col Glacier – Mount Everest’s highest glacier – is melting at an alarmingly rapid rate. In the last 25 years, it has reportedly lost more than 54 metres (180ft) of its thickness, according to the team led by researchers from the University of Maine.

This glacier – located between Mount Everest and Lhotse, the highest, and fourth-highest peaks in the world respectively – sits at around 7,906m (25,938 ft) above sea level. Incredibly, it is said to be melting 80 times quicker than it took for the ice to originally form.

Warming temperatures and strong winds are being blamed for the speed of its decline. Ice that had taken around 2,000 years to form the glacier has been melting away since the 1990s said the scientists. Underlying black ice has since been exposed as the snowpack melts, helping the sun to accelerate the melting process.

It has been suggested by one of the study’s lead researchers, Dr Mariusz Potocki, that, “the South Col Glacier may be on the way out – it may already be a ‘relic’ from an older, colder, time”.

Dr Tom Matthews, a climate scientist from Kings College London, and a co-author of the study, told the BBC that no single change had occurred in the region’s climate to cause the surge in melting. “Instead, the steady uptick in temperatures eventually pushes the glacier across a threshold, and suddenly everything changes”, he explained.
Dr Paul Mayewski led the team of ten scientists, on what was a first, as studies on the effect climate change might have on glaciers at this altitude had never been carried out previously.
They installed what were the world’s two highest-ever weather monitoring stations on the glacier. Samples from an ice core approximately 10 metres long (32ft) were subsequently extracted.

Speaking to the BBC, Dr Mayewski said the study “adds a high elevation understanding that has not previously been available, and that drives home the remarkable sensitivity Earth systems have to even relatively small change”. He also suggested that this rapid melt could cause “significant regional to global scale implications”.

The South Col Glacier “is very small in the grand scheme of things”, Dr Matthews told the BBC, adding that they must now examine “to what extent the sensitivity we’ve discovered here applies more widely to ice stores on the roof of the world”, as reported by bbc.com.

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Written by

Chris King

Originally from Wales, Chris spent years on the Costa del Sol before moving to the Algarve where he is a web reporter for The Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news. Got a news story you want to share? Then get in touch at [email protected]

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