Tibetan Glaciers Are Shrinking at Surprisingly High Elevations

The glaciers are losing ice at altitudes of about 6,000 meters (19,685 feet)

By on September 18th, 2013 20:01 GMT

Scientists monitoring Tibet now say that, according to their investigations, glaciers in this part of the world are losing ice not just at fairly low elevations, but also at surprisingly high ones.

Specifically, they claim that, according to recent measurements, Tibetan glaciers are shrinking at their summits, i.e. at altitudes of about 6,000 meters (19,685 feet).

Speaking at the 6th International Symposium of Tibetan Plateau Joint Conference in Germany, researcher Kang Shichang made a case of how, as far as he and his colleagues can tell, “The glaciers are virtually being decapitated from the top by a warming climate.”

Said specialist argues that, largely unknown to the scientific community, Tibetan glaciers have been losing ice at their summits for several decades now.

The researchers base their claims on data gathered while analyzing ice samples collected from the Lnong glacier in southern Tibet, and the central Guoqu glacier, Nature reports.

They explain that, as a glacier accumulates ice, various chemical compounds that ran rampant in the air during a given period get trapped in them.

Therefore, different ice samples have distinct chemical signatures that can help scientists piece together a history of the glacier.

Since the ice that makes up the Lanong glacier contains no traces of either nuclear testing or radioactive compounds that hit the atmosphere in the aftermath of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986, the researchers concluded that this glacier had somehow lost the ice layers it accumulated since the 1950s until recently.

In the case of the Guoqu glacier, the chemical trail ends in the 1980s.

Commenting on these findings, paleoclimatologist Achim Bräuning said that, “It’s surprising that glaciers are melting so high up in the mountains.

“We used to think that glaciers at high elevations were pretty safe, but this study shows that this might not be the case – at least at certain locations,” he added.

The researchers fear that, all things considered, the same thing is happening to other high mountains around the world. They recommend that further investigation into this phenomenon be carried out.

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