Himalayan glaciers melting; catastrophe in the wings

Researchers are raising alarms about the rapid rate of melting in Himalayan glaciers, the lack of current scientific data and monitoring thereof, and the possibility of resulting catastrophic floods in the short term and water shortages in the long term. Some 2,300 of the Nepalese Himalayas’ 3,300 glaciers contain glacial lakes, and many of those lakes are swelling behind dams of ice. No major studies of the problem have been done since the 1990s, so researchers are uncertain how close the lakes are to bursting forth in floods that could wipe out entire villages in Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and India. In the longer term, as global warming continues, the danger is that the glaciers could disappear altogether, precipitating a water crisis in the many countries that depend on their steady supply of water. “In some rivers, the flow may go down by as much as 90 percent,” said researcher Syed Iqbal Hosnain.