Owen Xu Li
Researchers from the University of Maine have discovered that the South Col Glacier, located almost at the top of Mount Everest, has lost almost 54 meters of thickness in the last two decades. This means that the glacier is melting 80 times faster than it formed (approximately 2000 years).
Global warming and strong winds have contributed to this monumental melting.
What’s worse, the accelerated melting and erosion of the uppermost layer of ice has exposed the layer o blakc ice, which aborbs more heat and further speeds the melting process.
Scientists suggest the South Col Glacier may already be a relic from a time when the temperatures were lower, sginifying a gradual change in today’s world.
Other scientists have confirmed the role of increasing temperatures in the accelerated melting process. Dr. Tom Matthews from Kings College London stated that there was no climatic change in the region that could force the glacier to disappear. He argues that gradual changes in local temperatures push the ice through a threshold and, suddenly, everything changes.
Studying glaciers at the heights of Mount Everest had never been done before, so 10 scientists led by Dr. Paul Mayewski installed the world’s two highest elevated temperature-monitoring stations.
Dr. Mayewski warns that the rapid disappearance of the glacier may cause local and global implications on the climate. For instance, millions of people depend on the glaciers in mountains for drinking water, so if other glaciers follow Mt. Everest into this pattern, their ability to provide water will be diminished.
Other implications include, of course, the difficulties for climbers and Sherpas. In the past, the thick cover of snow acted as a buffer to protect climbers from sharp rocks and falling boulders; now, as the ice disappears, it will become harder and more dangerous to climb the mountain. This also means that Sherpas, who depend on tourists for income, will be affected by the upcoming obstacles.