Himalayas: Everest Region's Glaciers May Disappear By 2100 Due To Climate Change

The Himalayan mountain range could look vastly different by 2100, according to a new study which concludes that the glaciers surrounding Mount Everest could shrink by as much as 70 percent or more in that timeframe due to the effects of climate change.

The study was published in The Cryosphere, and it concludes that the glaciers of the Dudh Koshi basin, which spans one million acres, could shrink by between 73 to 96 percent by the end of the century. Researchers from the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in Nepal and Utrecht University in the Netherlands conducted the study, according to Discovery News, which concluded that climate change is likely behind the expected meltdown in the Everest region.

"These glaciers may be highly sensitive to changes in temperature," said Joseph Shea, the study's lead author. "Increases in precipitation are not enough to offset the increased melt."

Though glaciers are important to the world's climate, data on them is notoriously hard to collect, due to the adverse conditions that characterize some of the world's highest peaks. Everest represents a special case, according to Shea, due to its well-traveled nature, which makes it a prime region to model the nuances of future glacier changes.

In fact, some researchers assert that the Everest region is already seeing the first effects of climate change. Last year, a huge slab of ice broke free from Everest and crashed across a popular climbing route during the mountaineering season. As the Inquisitr previously reported, 16 climbers were killed in the accident. Some climbers and researchers have pointed to this incident as a sign of future difficulties as warming temperatures affect the glaciers of Everest.

The researchers assert that higher temperatures could potentially raise the freezing line on Everest, exposing the majority of glaciers to temperatures above 32 degrees Fahrenheit in the warmer months. As Weather.com points out, these changes could have drastic effects on the populations below Everest, who could experience catastrophic flooding from glacial lakes created by melting. NASA referenced just such a scenario in a description of a satellite image of the Imja glacier.

"Glaciers are the largest reservoirs of freshwater on our planet, and their melting or growing is one of the best indicators of climate change. Glacial runoff from the Himalayas has a direct effect on the nearby rivers … and is very important for lower-lying regions where there is a very large human population."

Shea cautioned that there remain uncertainties as the study represents the first attempt to model the Everest region in such a manner, yet he pointed out that the results attest glaciers are highly susceptible to warming temperatures.

[Photo by Paula Bronstein / Getty Images]