The world’s highest peak is losing its ice and snow, according to research presented at the Meeting of the Americas—a scientific conference organized by the American Geophysical Union. In the last 50 years, a new study shows, Everest’s "ice rivers" have shrunk by 13 percent and its snowline has moved upward by 590 feet.
The study was led by Sudeep Thakuri, a PhD student at the University of Milan. Thakuri and his team tracked glacial change on Everest and the surrounding area by compiling satellite imagery and topographic maps to reconstruct glacial history. According to their analysis, the glaciers are disappearing at an increasing rate.
The scientists also found that temperature and precipitation trends in the region are changing. Since the early 1990s, the Everest region has become warmer and had less snowfall.
To evaluate these changes, the team analyzed meteorological data from the Nepal Climate Observatory stations and the country’s Department of Hydrology and Meteorology. Since 1992, the Everest region has had a 1.08 degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature and a 3.9 inch decrease in precipitation during the pre-monsoon and winter months.
These changes could be catastrophic for nearby populations.
“The Himalayan glaciers and ice caps are considered a water tower for Asia since they store and supply water downstream during the dry season,” Thakuri said in a press release. “Downstream populations are dependent on the melt water for agriculture, drinking, and power production.”
The researchers believe the changes are due to climate change. No firm connection has been made, however.