A new study concerning the glaciers in the Celestial Mountains of central Asia indicates that by 2050 the glaciers could become history.
Globally, due to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and climate change leading to the rise of global temperatures, enormous masses of ice have been melting.
Now, a new range of glaciers is in the attention of scientists. These are the glaciers of the Celestial Mountains, central Asia, the Tien Shan range, where the ice mass has decreased by 27 percent since 1961.
According to estimates the glaciers could further reduce by 50 percent by 2050, leaving behind only a part of the glaciers. Daniel Farinotti of the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research, Birmensdorf-Switzerland draws an alarm signal as to what this alarming melting rate could mean for the surrounding regions.
According to Farinotti, the massive melting of the glaciers turns them into a ‘huge water tower’. As the ice of the Celestial Mountains melts, it provides a massive natural irrigation system for the underlying Fergana Valley. Not only here, but the beneficial effects of the meltwater are also felt in China, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan.
With an increased pace of melting, the agriculture of these regions is threatened by flooding, followed by a potential lack of water for further irrigation.
Another study conducted by lead researcher Michael Zemp of the World Glacier Monitoring Service at the University of Zurich, Switzerland mirrors the conclusions. After having analyzed observations gathered on 2000 glaciers worldwide since 1984, this study concluded that on average, the glaciers have been shedding approximately 75 centimeters of the thick ice blanket yearly in the decade comprised between 2001 and 2010.
The rate is twice as rapid as that of the 1990s and triple that of the 1980s. In this study, the largest ice retreats were observed in Alaska and the European Alps, as well as the north-west of Canada and the U.S.
The Farinotti study focuses on a smaller scale on the glaciers of central Asia. Nonetheless, according to Zemp, it validates the estimates and conclusions of the larger study that also looked at this area. The former study comprised glaciers data gathered since 1961, meteorological data, as well as two sets of satellite-obtained data gathered from 2003 until 2009.
Measuring the distance between the glaciers’ surfaces and the satellites, as well as the changes occurring in gravity, the study focusing on the central Asia glaciers found that the average ice loss on an yearly basis is around 5.4 gigatonnes.
There is little one can do to prevent further melting and ice loss. As greenhouse gas emissions accumulated in the atmosphere are already at a critical level, an immediate shift to zero-carbon economy at a global scale would have a long-term effect.
On the short-term, ice loss would continue for the next decades, even if at a somewhat slower pace.
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