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Himalayas and nearby peaks haven't melted over past decade

London, Thu, 09 Feb 2012 ANI

London, Feb 9 (ANI): 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 not lost any ice for the past 10 years, a new study has revealed.


The discovery has astonished scientists, who had believed that approximately 50bn tonnes of meltwater were being shed every year and not being restored by new snowfall.


The study, which is the first to survey the entire world's icecaps and glaciers, was made possible by utilizing satellite data.


On the whole, 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 accountable for most of the inconsistency.


"The very unexpected result was the negligible mass loss from high mountain Asia, which is not significantly different from zero," the Guardian quoted Bristol University glaciologist Prof Jonathan Bamber, who was not part of the research team, as saying.


The melting of Himalayan glaciers triggered controversy in 2009 when a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change incorrectly declared that they would vanish by 2035, instead of 2350.


However, the scientist who led the new study is assured that while greater uncertainty has been discovered in Asia's highest mountains, the melting of ice caps and glaciers around the world remains a grave 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 concluded that between 443-629bn tonnes of meltwater overall are added to the world's oceans each year.


This is elevating sea level by about 1.5mm a year, in addition to the 2mm a year caused by expansion of the warming ocean.


The scientists are cautious to point out that lower-altitude glaciers in the Asian mountain ranges - sometimes dubbed the "third pole" - are definitely melting.


Satellite images and reports verify 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 asserted that there would be no major changes in projection for sea level rise by 2100.


"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 vital to a better understanding of ice melting, the eight years of data is a comparatively 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 added.


The new study used a pair of satellites, named 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.


The study has been published in the journal Nature. (ANI)


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