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Time to prepare for climate change
Date:11/15/2010

edding ice in others. The lower segments are more prone to change due to the higher temperatures associated with lower elevations, making the measurements taken there less reliable. Remote sensing technology has allowed researchers to measure glaciers over larger areas in recent years, but there isn't much historical data to provide a long-term picture.

The report states that many Himalayan glaciers are retreating, especially at lower elevations, but that no region-wide evidence supports the claim that they're retreating faster than any other location in the world. The report also recommends that scientists collaborate internationally to gather more information to show the glaciers' overall ice balance on a regional scale.

Preparing for the future

One of the most pressing near-term impacts that scientists can study are glacier lake outburst floods. Unlike the widespread deluges that some inaccurately fear could follow sudden glacial melting, these floods are due to slow melting and occur on a smaller scale. They typically happen when an advancing glacier dams a river or water builds up behind soil and rocks deposited by a glacier.

Those most affected by the floods are residents of the rural villages close to glaciers. Although the number of people directly impacted can be small, the damage is often extensive. Glacier lake floods can be so destructive "that people who survive must move and begin to rebuild their lives in other places," the report notes. More than 25 glacier lake outburst floods have been recorded in Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet since the 1930s and more will likely occur as climate change progresses.

Retreating glaciers can also heighten existing water worries. In the Indus River Basin, for example, glacier melt accounts for about 30 percent of the river's water supply. Retreating glaciers would lessen the river's overall flow, but that impact would likely be more dramatic as the region's population growth increases th
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Contact: Franny White
frances.white@pnl.gov
509-375-6904
DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory
Source:Eurekalert  

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