The Himalayas and nearby peaks have lost no ice in past 10 years, study shows

The rivers and glaciers that descend from the steep slopes of the Himalaya mountain range help to provide water for the 1.4 billion people that live in its shadow. Any interruption in this flow could have severe implications in a region blighted by poltical tension and poverty. A paper published in the science journal Nature in February this year revealed that there has been no appreciable loss of ice from the region over the past decade. The news has been met with relief and surprise. The findings have also been greeted with delight by climate sceptics who have long viewed claims about the melting of Himalayan glaciers unfounded and alarmist.



by Damian Carrington 


The world’s greatest snow-capped peaks, which run in a chain from the Himalayas to Tian Shan on the border of China and Kyrgyzstan, have lost no ice over the last decade, new research shows.

The discovery has stunned scientists, who had believed that around 50bn tonnes of meltwater were being shed each year and not being replaced by new snowfall.

The study is the first to survey all the world’s icecaps and glaciers and was made possible by the use of satellite data. Overall, the contribution of melting ice outside the two largest caps – Greenland and Antarctica – is much less than previously estimated, with the lack of ice loss in the Himalayas and the other high peaks of Asia responsible for most of the discrepancy.

Bristol University glaciologist Prof Jonathan Bamber, who was not part of the research team, said: “The very unexpected result was the negligible mass loss from high mountain Asia, which is not significantly different from zero.”

The melting of Himalayan glaciers caused controversy in 2009 when a report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change mistakenly stated that they would disappear by 2035, instead of 2350. However, the scientist who led the new work is clear that while greater uncertainty has been discovered in Asia’s highest mountains, the melting of ice caps and glaciers around the world remains a serious concern.

“Our results and those of everyone else show we are losing a huge amount of water into the oceans every year,” said Prof John Wahr of the University of Colorado. “People should be just as worried about the melting of the world’s ice as they were before.”

His team’s study, published in the journal Nature, concludes that between 443-629bn tonnes of meltwater overall are added to the world’s oceans each year. This is raising sea level by about 1.5mm a year, the team reports, in addition to the 2mm a year caused by expansion of the warming ocean.

The scientists are careful to point out that lower-altitude glaciers in the Asian mountain ranges – sometimes dubbed the “third pole” – are definitely melting. Satellite images and reports confirm this. But over the study period from 2003-10 enough ice was added to the peaks to compensate.

The impact on predictions for future sea level rise is yet to be fully studied but Bamber said: “The projections for sea level rise by 2100 will not change by much, say 5cm or so, so we are talking about a very small modification.” Existing estimates range from 30cm to 1m.

Wahr warned that while crucial to a better understanding of ice melting, the eight years of data is a relatively short time period and that variable monsoons mean year-to-year changes in ice mass of hundreds of billions of tonnes. “It is awfully dangerous to take an eight-year record and predict even the next eight years, let alone the next century,” he said.

The reason for the radical reappraisal of ice melting in Asia is the different ways in which the current and previous studies were conducted. Until now, estimates of meltwater loss for all the world’s 200,000 glaciers were based on extrapolations of data from a few hundred monitored on the ground. Those glaciers at lower altitudes are much easier for scientists to get to and so were more frequently included, but they were also more prone to melting.

The bias was particularly strong in Asia, said Wahr: “There extrapolation is really tough as only a handful of lower-altitude glaciers are monitored and there are thousands there very high up.”

The new study used a pair of satellites, called Grace, which measure tiny changes in the Earth’s gravitational pull. When ice is lost, the gravitational pull weakens and is detected by the orbiting spacecraft. “They fly at 500km, so they see everything,” said Wahr, including the hard-to-reach, high-altitude glaciers.

“I believe this data is the most reliable estimate of global glacier mass balance that has been produced to date,” said Bamber. He noted that 1.4 billion people depend on the rivers that flow from the Himalayas and Tibetan plateau: “That is a compelling reason to try to understand what is happening there better.”

He added: “The new data does not mean that concerns about climate change are overblown in any way. It means there is a much larger uncertainty in high mountain Asia than we thought. Taken globally all the observations of the Earth’s ice – permafrost, Arctic sea ice, snow cover and glaciers – are going in the same direction.”

Grace launched in 2002 and continues to monitor the planet, but it has passed its expected mission span and its batteries are beginning to weaken. A replacement mission has been approved by the US and German space agencies and could launch in 2016.

• This article was amended on 9 February 2012. The original sub-heading read “Melting ice from Asia’s peaks is much less then previously estimated” as did the photo caption and text: “Melting ice outside the two largest caps – Greenland and Antarctica – is much less then previously estimated”. These have all been corrected.

The writer Damian Carrington is the head of environment at the Guardian Newspaper of U.K.
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Are we wrong about Pakistan?

Visit Pakistan and experience the sheer beauty of the country. Contrary to popular opinion, much of Pakistan is perfectly safe to visit so long as elementary precautions are taken, and, where necessary, a reliable local guide secured. I have made many friends here, and they live normal, fulfilled family lives. Indeed there is no reason at all why foreigners should not holiday in some of Pakistan’s amazing holiday locations, made all the better by the almost complete absence of Western tourists.
Take Shandur, 12,000ft above sea level, which every year hosts a grand polo tournament between the Gilgit and Chitral polo teams in a windswept ground flanked by massive mountain ranges. Or travel south to Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa, cradle of the Indus Valley civilisation which generated the world’s first urban culture, parallel with Egypt and ancient Sumer, approximately 5,000 years ago.



When Peter Oborne first arrived in Pakistan, he expected a ‘savage’ back water scarred by terrorism. Years later, he describes the Pakistan that is barely documented – and that he came to fall in love with


by Peter Oborne


It was my first evening in Pakistan. My hosts, a Lahore banker and his   charming wife, wanted to show me the sights, so they took me to a restaurant   on the roof of a town house in the Old City.

My food was delicious, the conversation sparky – and from our vantage point we   enjoyed a perfect view of the Badshahi Mosque, which was commissioned by the   emperor Aurangzeb in 1671.

It was my first inkling of a problem. I had been dispatched to write a report   reflecting the common perception that Pakistan is one of the most backward   and savage countries in the world. This attitude has been hard-wired into   Western reporting for years and is best summed up by the writing of the   iconic journalist Christopher Hitchens. Shortly before he died last   December, Hitchens wrote a piece in Vanity Fair that bordered on   racism.

Pakistan, he said, was “humourless, paranoid, insecure, eager to take offence   and suffering from self-righteousness, self-pity and self-hatred”. In   summary, asserted Hitchens, Pakistan was one of the “vilest and most   dangerous regions on Earth”.

Since my first night in that Lahore restaurant I have travelled through most   of Pakistan, got to know its cities, its remote rural regions and even parts   of the lawless north. Of course there is some truth in Hitchens’s brash   assertions. Since 2006 alone, more than 14,000 Pakistani civilians have been   killed in terrorist attacks. The Pakistan political elite is corrupt,   self-serving, hypocritical and cowardly – as Pakistanis themselves are well   aware. And a cruel intolerance is entering public discourse, as the   appalling murder last year of minorities minister Shahbaz Bhatti after he   spoke out for Christians so graphically proves. Parts of the country have   become impassable except at risk of kidnap or attack.


The Memogate Brouhaha

Mr. Haqqani’s audacious caper seems to have backfired spectacularly. Far from reining in the generals, President Zardari is weaker than ever. The military is confirmed in its suspicion that he would, if he could, sell them (and Pakistan) to the US. Its doubts about US intentions have increased, especially in respect of its nuclear arsenal. Husain Haqqani, for the time being, sits snug in his wife’s apartment in the presidency, occasionally issuing defiant Tweets (though not on the infamous Blackberry, now impounded, that, as Eliza Doolittle would say, had done him in!). Outside, angry mutters of treason trials are being heard. Memogate rolls on.




by F B Ali

All of Pakistan has recently been watching with rapt attention the twists and turns of an unfolding scandal that the country’s febrile media has happily termed ‘Memogate’. The ruling party, in full defensive mode, watches apprehensively even as it bobs and weaves with every disclosure. The opposition parties gleefully plot and maneouvre to gain maximum advantage, while the generals nervously button and unbutton their holsters.  (more…)

PAKISTAN – The Largest Land of Glaciers [3 of 3]

Green In the Black refers to the Kararkoram mountains whose name means Balck Mountains and it is surprising that a lush green valley is found inside the snow clad peaks and largest glaciers of the world.



by Nayyar Hashmey PhD



The Baltoro Glacier, 57 kilometers long, is one of the longest glaciers outside of the Polar Regions. Located again in Baltistan, in our Northern Areas it runs through part of the Karakoram mountain range. The Baltoro Muztagh lies to the north and east of the glacier, while the Masherbrum Mountains lie to the south. At 8,611 m (28,251 ft), K2 is the highest mountain in the region, and three others within 20 km top at 8,000m or above.

The glacier gives rise to the Shigar River, which is a tributary of the Indus River. Several large tributary glaciers feed the main Baltoro glacier, including the Godwin Austen glacier, flowing south from K2; the Abruzzi and the various Gasherbrum glaciers, flowing from the Gasherbrum group of peaks; the Vigne glacier, flowing from Chogolisa, and the Yermandendu glacier, flowing from Masherbrum.


Masherbrum (7821 m), enveloped in mist, stands without its usual sheath of ice and snow in the Karakoram summer.

Masherbrum was first named K-1 for Karakoram 1 when it was believed to be the tallest peak in the Karakorams – an honour that was later taken away by the group of 4 mountains just a days trek away where the mighty K-2 (8611m) accompanied by the other 3 Eight-thousanders (Broad Peak, Gasherbrum 1 and Gasherbrum 2) rises out of the Godwin-Austen glacier in all its majesty.

Masherbrum has been summited 4 times. (more…)

PAKISTAN – The Largest Land of Glaciers [2 of 3]

The Majestic range of Karakoram in Northern Pakistan has the honor of having World’s largest glaciers outside north and south poles. The picture here is among one of them taken in the extreme summer month. The place here is a junction of Biafo and Hispar glaciers which together form 118 km of longest layer of ice on the Earth outside the pole.



by Nayyar Hashmey PhD


In about 1978, the Indian Army mounted an expedition to Teram Kangri peaks (in the Siachen area on the China border and just east of a line drawn due north from NJ9842) as a precursor-exercise (a camouflage to occupy the area by force). The first public mention of a possible conflict situation was an article by Joydeep Sircar in The Telegraph newspaper of Calcutta in 1982, reprinted as “Oropolitics” in the Alpine Journal, London, in 1984. India launched an operation on 13 April, 1984. The Indian Army and the Indian Air Force went into the glacier region. Pakistan army quickly responded with troop deployments and what followed was literally a race to the top. (more…)

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