"Glaciers will vary from one side of the mountain range to the next very differently. As part of our research, we're building up a standard scheme that people can use to compare their glaciated areas," Owen says.
The environmental stakes are as high as the mountains themselves. Tibet and the Himalayas are nearly one-third the size of the contiguous 48 U.S. states, and nearly a billion people live in the mountains' shadow. Waters from the glaciers flow into the Indo-Gangetic Plain, a fertile region including parts of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan, and bordered to the north by China. The source water for some of the world's largest rivers the Indus, Ganges, Yangtze and Yellow is derived from these glaciers.
On an even broader scale, Owen notes the Himalayas and Tibet also have a major influence on regional and global atmospheric circulation, magnifying their importance in understanding the dynamics of global environmental change.
"We want to be able to more accurately construct where glaciers are going to melt in the future and to what degree they are going to melt," Owen says. "We want to be able to plan and prioritize where we protect from glaciers melting."
PASSING THE TEST OF TIME
To help predict the future, Owen and his colleagues look to the past. Researchers in Owen's group use advanced geochronology techniques such as cosmogenic and luminescence dating to more accurately determine the age of their samples. The results give scientists a clearer picture of how to reconstruct glacial response to cl
|Contact: Tom Robinette|
University of Cincinnati